A local dyehouse continuing the 430-year-old tradition of Gujo Indigo Dyeing
Gujo Hachiman once flourished as a castle town and was home to more than ten dyers. Watanabe Somemono Dyehouse is the last of these traditional dyehouses and continues their legacy to this day so that future generations may enjoy this traditional art.
Watanabe still employs traditional techniques of shō aizome indigo dyeing, which uses natural indigo rather than chemical dyes. Natural indigo has effects like repelling insects and strengthening fabric, therefore, aizome indigo textiles were often used for garments and furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth).
In the wintertime, when indigo dyeing is difficult to perform, Watanabe hand-makes Japanese carp banners that are to be used for the Japanese holiday of Children's Day in the spring. A part of this production process includes soaking the banners in frigid cold water overnight to brighten the color, tighten the banner material, and wash off a naturally made paste that is used when coloring the banner. This process is showcased annually in an event called the Koinobori Kanzarashi, which takes place in the Kodara River near Sogi Springs in downtown Gujo Hachiman.
- Tradition & History