Japan—Tokyo, Baskets and the Indigo Vat


Here are the highlights from our first few days in Japan this Spring.

Breakfast at the Ryokan These savory breakfasts are served with small plates of various foods like vegetables, eggs, pickled radish, a small portion of protein like fish, green tea and always a bowl of white rice.


Early Morning in Tokyo I was pleasantly surprised on just how quiet the city was day or night. People are very polite and respectful of each others personal space. The loudest people on the subways were often foreigners.


Oedo Antique Market We were lucky to be in Tokyo on the weekend when the antique market was happening. It was huge and took hours to see it all.


Japanese Folk Crafts Museum We visited the world renowned Mingeikan or Japanese Folk Crafts Museum. If you’ve read Sōetsu Yanagi’s The Unknown Craftsman you’ll know about the Japanese Folk Craft movement and its powerful influence on craft, not only in Japan, but around the world. They didn’t allow photos so you’ll have to visit to see what’s on display. Yanagi’s House across the street was cool too.


Kagoamidori Basket Shop This basket shop is in Kunitachi, a part of town far to the west. They sell baskets from all over the world. It was amazing. On exhibit was the work of a family of rice straw braiders who make shimenawa that hang above doorways. The owners document and promote traditional techniques by filming the makers and playing the film on the shop wall.


@awonoyoh We also made friends with an indigo dyer and his wife. Takayuki and Tomo welcomed us into their home and workshop where Jazmin learned about indigo dyeing using a fermentation vat. She dyed linen thread she brought from home for future weaving projects.


There are many books written on natural indigo. It’s a huge subject to even know where to begin if you aren't familiar with it.

Pictured to the left is a tray of fermented and dried sukumo.


Dyeing with traditional Japanese indigo vats has been a life long dream for Jazmin so this was a very special day for her.


I even learned a little about indigo dyeing while exploring katazome, a technique using hand cut stencils to dye patterns on cloth.


The deep color from Japanese indigo is amazing.


Here is a pillow made from some of Taka’s katazome cloth. Amazing work! Can you imagine the stencil used to make this? Everything that is white is cut away with a fine knife. Very fine detail.


We went to dinner at The Blind Donkey. Jazmin knew the chef, Jerome, from her Tassajara Zen Center days. He left Chez Panisse, the famous Berkeley restaurant to start this one. The food was excellent.


We didn’t even scratch the surface of what’s to experience in Tokyo. I can’t wait to go back.


Jarrod Dahl2 Comments