Japan’s famous medieval warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi was the man who ended the nationwide feudal wars and became the head of the entire nation in 1590. After his death, the Tokugawa Shogun family took over his reign and the Edo period began, lasting from 1603 to 1868. During this time, Japan enjoyed great societal stability. Furthermore, the provincial samurai lords had promoted industries and trades within their territories. It was a great time in history when many arts and crafts were born and flourished. These objects were actively traded among provinces. Both Tottori and Shimane prefectures are famous for Kasuri fabric and Yumihama-Gasuri, which is characterized by a nice contrast between white patterns and dyed indigo blue. Both of these fabrics became increasingly popular at this time.
Kasuri fabrics are made of natural cotton. Making the fabrics was an important daily job for women in the villages. They made beddings as well as clothes for all occasions. Fans, turtles, cranes, fish, chrysanthemums, treasures, etc. were favorite patterns used for Kasuri, which is loosely woven and has a natural feel. One can easily sense the love and wisdom of a woman who chooses a certain pattern to wish her loved ones good luck for a special life event. For example, a mother might choose an anchor for her young bride to safely settle down in her new sea (environment), or an eagle for her newborn child or grandchild to “fly bravely” into the future like a bird.
In the 18th century, Yumihama-Gasuri became a major industry in Tottori, thanks to the hardworking women in the farming villages. They attended cotton fields during the day, and made and wove threads at night. In fact, Yumihama-Gasuri was an important source of income for the families. There were about 54 weaving houses in 1836.
Later on, rapid industrialization made the time consuming Yumihama-Gasuri method almost obsolete, with a lack of skillful successors to keep the craft alive. However, thanks to the recent popularity of handmade objects, people began rediscovering the beauty of the mystic dancing of white and indigo colors, set on weavers that emanate love and warmth. Although production is still limited to this day, local organizations have been working to train the next generation of Yumihama-gasuri artists. They also make accessories such as bags, hats, coin purses, porches, table cloths and so on, which are more affordable, but still send you love and good wishes.
Tottori Prefectural Museum
2-124 Higashimachi Tottori-shi Tottori-ken
Tottori Prefectural Government
1-220 Higashimachi Tottori-shi Tottori-ken