Awashouai Fabric

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The birth of Awashouai-shijiraori was an unexpected by-product of failed attempts, which then happened to become a successful traditional craft for Tokushima.  Awashouai-shijiraori is a type of fabric that was first made in the 1860s. It was a refined version of cotton fabric made in Aba province (today’s Tokushima Prefecture).

As commoners before the 1860s were forbidden to use silk, they tried to figure out how to make cotton fabric more luxurious. One hot summer day, a woman named Kaifuhana was drying a cloth called “Tataeshima”, a material typically used to make summer kimono in the area. Suddenly it started raining, and her cloth became completely wet. She hung it to dry it under the strong sun, but when the cloth dried, it looked a bit bumpy. This is thought to be the origin of Awashouai-shijiraori, which became very popular thereafter, with annual production reaching 1,500,000 kimono in the 1890s. Tokushima prefecture had about 200 factories with more than 5,000 employees dedicated to the craft at the time.

However, the industry temporarily ceased for a brief period due to competition and the war. In 1953, Awashijira was revived in collaboration with Aizome (indigo dyeing), another local specialty. Awashijira colored with the local natural indigo dye became Awashouai-shijiraori. In 1978, Awashouai-shijiraori was designated as one of the Traditional Crafts of Japan.

 The unevenness of the cloth is determined by how many threads are woven into it. It is a rather complicated and sophisticated technique to master. The creased texture gives Awashouai-shijiraori coolness and crispness, making it perfect for summer clothing. Beautiful indigo is also a great cooling color for hot days!

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Photo by Tokushima Prefecture Tourism Association

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