Try your hand at the Japanese art of ‘aizome’ indigo dyeing, in the historic castle town of Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture. Experience a traditional Japanese craft in the studio of a 15th-generation master, continuing 430 years of family tradition!
• Plastic gloves and shoes are provided, but please be sure to wear clothes that you don’t mind being stained; indigo is very difficult to remove from clothing. • If your group is of 5 or more people, the activity may be held at a larger venue nearby, but will still include a visit to the studio. • Your host will teach you with basic English, supported by additional teaching aids in the workshop. If you like, you can book an interpreter/guide for an even more insightful experience and a guided tour of the town included.
Hachiman-Cho, popularly known as Gujo Hachiman, is a historic castle town at the center of the Gujo City area, with a history of indigo dyeing going back more than 400 years, upheld by the Watanabe Dyehouse, currently run by its 15th generation master. The craftsmen of Gujo have long used natural ingredients, and painstaking traditional methods to produce the distinctive pigment known internationally as ‘Japan Blue.’ In contrast to the chemical dyes now widely used, traditional indigo is preferred for high-quality clothes and accessories in Japan, where it’s valued for its insect-repellent and antibacterial properties, as well as its distinctive hue. In this hands-on activity, you will make your very own indigo-dyed T-shirt or stole using the traditional methods of the Watanabe Dyehouse, the facility you will visit. It is now the only ‘konya’ (Japanese dyehouse) remaining in Gujo Hachiman, a town that was once a hub of aizome. The current master, Watanabe Kazuyoshi continues the family tradition of making and dyeing with Gujo Indigo Dye, from the diligent fermentation of indigo leaves with lye and quicklime, to the town’s traditions of rinsing the finished product in the well-preserved waterways that still run past his family workshop. Choose your fabric (cotton or bamboo fiber), and dye it with patterns of your own design. Apply a color gradient if you choose, or use binding, pressing, or wrapping ‘shibori’ techniques, to create a unique memento of your trip. Finally, you will rinse your creation in the waterways that run in front of the workshop. After drying your piece, it will be ready to take home! To make the most of your visit to this historic town, we recommend looking around Gujo Hachiman to discover more of the town's highlights while your piece of art dries at the studio. Be immersed in the quiet small-town atmosphere as you walk down the well-preserved streets of the Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings, see the reconstructed wooden castle on Shiroyama (Castle Mountain), or visit Jionzenji Temple with its beautiful gardens.