Yamanashi tochbearer running to save weaving tradition

Yamanashi

"I want people in Japan and throughout the world to know about Tsuru, the town of Koshu textiles," says AMANO Midori. Koshu textiles used to be called Kaiki and their production peaked in between the period of the Meiji and Showa eras.

As it is now in decline, Amano is trying to save traditional weaving techniques by weaving Koshu textiles with other weavers in the area. Her aim is to leave a legacy of Koshu texiles by making umbrellas and other small items that incorporate Koshu textiles, so that the next generation that sees them will want to learn how to make them.

Her ambition is to make Koshu textiles known as one of the Made-in-Japan products. She started running marathons seven years ago, and all the time she was thinking about how she could contribute to the city of Tsuru. As a torchbearer, she is going to spread the word about this town of Koshu textiles with a smile.

Please tell us about the charm of Koshu textiles.

Koshu textiles are characterised by the deep colours that are created by dyeing the yarns before weaving, using spring water from Mt. Fuji. With the hogushi-ori technique, which is what my family business use, pretty patterns are added to aligned yarns before they are woven, producing delicately decorated textiles just like watercolour paintings.

What are the challenges in weaving Koshu texitiles?

We make our own dyes and the colour is affected by the season and the weather. As the colour changes after fixing - using heat or after weaving - getting the colour we want is a process of repeated trial and error. We also have to produce umbrellas with good designs that will be accepted by today's consumers. Still, I'd like people to know the charm of retro styles as well.

What kind of efforts are you involved in to make Koshu textiles famous Made-in Japan products?

The only place left in the world where umbrellas are made with Koshu textiles using the hogushi-ori technique is Yamanashi. Almost the entire process relies on the handiwork of skilled workers. We learn such techniques from artisan workers in order to pass them on to the next generation. We also develop products together with local students, and hold dyeing lessons with high school students.

Tell us about some of the good things regarding Tsuru City.

Tsuru was on the pilgrimage route to Mt. Fuji during the Edo period, and you can see the mountain from almost anywhere in the city. Even in the centre of the city, the mountain is so close to you that the beauty of the four seasons becomes part of your life. And we have delicious water to drink.

Please share a few words with us about your enthusiasm regarding being a torchbearer.

Let's aim high.