04 Aug 2016
Deep in the mountain, 2 hours away from Kyoto city by car, the village is outside the range of mobile phone, and the old house is standing in the foot of Mount Oue.
In the off-the-beaten village, called Amaza, a couple started a community project, making natural dress by using locally available plants.
"Meoto", the name of the shop is literary means "a couple" in Japanese; Tecchan, a husband, is growing indigo plants and collecting natural plants nearby and dying cloth, and his wife, Miya-chan is sewing.
A traditional building with herb garden and indigo farm, with the calm flow of stream besides the farm.
The residents of the village is just three, and rest of the houses are empty.
As is often the case with rural villages in Japan, most young people leave from the village and nobody can cultivate agricultural lands, and the lands are getting desolated.
Whole Living Base
The meoto couple started to make "whole living base", leading organic life with community people - making food, clothing and shelter (In Japanese, we have the term yishokuju, which stands for yi 衣 clothing, shoku 食 food, and ju 住 shelter).
This weekend, there was a open house, exhibition and cafe, and the village was flourished with many visitors.
Visitors for 3-days program of Indigo Farm Stay, one-day visitors, and also local elderly people also gathered to eat lunch; from small kids to ground mothers and fathers enjoy spending their time there.
After helping the kitchen during lunchtime, we harvested indigo.
Indigo cultivation can be seen also in Egypt, India, China and Africa. The origin of the word "Indigo" was from India.
Japanese indigo dying was once introduced as "Japan blue" by Atkinson in meiji era.
The main production area is Tokushima, and once indigo was intercropped with wheats.
After harvesting wheat in summer, indigo leaves are getting bigger toward the end of July, and indigo can be harvested twice, the latter time is in September.
The indigo colorant is insoluble and cannot dye as it is. There are several ways to extract indigo colorant - deoxidization, alkalinize, and fermentation.
Soaked the harvested leaves into water and leave it for 3 days. Under the deoxidized condition, indigo colorant is soluble and precipitated in the bottom. The dried indigo paste can be preserved for a long time. This is called "door-ai".
The other way is making "sukumo". Mixed with wheat bran and charcoal, the indigo leaves are fermented for 6 months. In order to activate microorganisms, sometimes Japanese sake liquor is also added.
|sukumo and indigo|
Collecting dying plants
yamamomo (morello rubra, myrica), akane (Rubia argyi, madder), gennoshoko(Geranium thunbergii), kihada (Phellodendron amurense, Amur Corktree), biwa(Eriobotrya japonica, Loquat), yomogi (Artemisia indica, mugwort), kuzu (Pueraria lobata, Kudz)... These are dying plants, and it is also medicinal plants as well.
The locally available plants change seasonally, and this time we collected Aoso (Boehmeria tricuspid).
Even if we dye with the same plants, the color is also different dependent on fiber of the cloth.
|Akaso can be found beside the stream|
The color variation with different fibers.
Indigo Farm Stay will be also organized in September.
Here is the movie;
Please contact me if interested in this experience.
Experience Rural Japan
further stories of off-the-beaten track in Japan