6/22/2009

Difficulty to keep up traditions


Yukata is suitable for summer. Yukata originated from “yukatabira”, which meant a special thin bathrobe worn during bathing. Yukatabira should originate before the days of the Heian period (794–1185), because it was described on “Engishiki”, compiled in the mid-Heian period. As changing times, yukata became habitual with common people after the mid-Edo period to wear after bathing. At that time, cotton was valuable, but because it feels more pleasant and can be dyed more vivid than hemp, people gradually have worn yukatas not only after bathing, but also as summer casual wears.

I have seen an ukiyo-e where a yukata-wearing lady with a round fan was relaxing after bathing. I heard that people in the past cherished the time after bathing.
Originally an essential dyeing technique for yukata was chugata, which refers to the mid-size of the design motif. Chugata dyed fabrics are now very expensive because craftsmen with chugata dyeing techniques have diminished.
Today I would like to introduce you “Kagozome”, which is one of chugata dyeing techniques. In 2008, “Nakano Dyeing Factory”, which was only one factory in the world inherited kagozome dyeing technique, stopped to produce new kagozome-dyed fabrics. I read the article in the online newspaper that it was caused by decline in demand, because of popularization of imported fabrics with prints.

On kagozome dyeing, the fabric passed through two round-shaped rolling brass stencils, which could print designs on the both sides of the fabric at the same time. We can see different kinds of designs on the both sides, so the fabric seems to be used for reversible yukatas. But actually using these reversible fabrics, stylish yukatas are made, casually showing another side of designs through sleeves and skirts.

On June 20, I attended the night party at MoMA in NY, hosted by UBS, one of the Swiss Banks. Because of the recession, most of banks are heard to pile up deficits, but members of MoMA were invited freely. UBS itself not only collects many modern art works, but also supports to trade art works. Furthermore, UBS supports artists, offers the space they present, and make people have opportunities to see and understand real arts, like the MoMA party.
In this way, UBS, or other big companies, has been supposed to support many artists and art works. But I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to support craftsmen and traditional techniques.

Art should be thought to be creative, while succession of traditional techniques should be thought to be opposite, but traditional techniques have changed through long history, like yukatas. I think that both arts and traditional techniques change with times.
I feel sad to hear the loss of traditional techniques, like kagozome for yukatas. Once we lost a technique, it would be really difficult to recover it.
I feel like I can't do anything on the matters, but I genuinely think that we should realize the importance of succession of traditional culture from generation to generation.

* The upper picture showed Kanda Konya-cho in the Edo period, where many dyeing factories standed side by side, painted by Hiroshige.

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