matohu matohu




The appeal of Awa no Kuni, Tokushima, colors my soul with each trip.

1. Mt. Bizan and the Yoshino River

Mt. Bizan is the symbol of Tokushima City. It is not a tall mountain, but has a beautiful ridgeline that is praised in the Man’yo-shu (A Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), the oldest collection of poetry in Japan, as having the shape of an eyebrow. Flowing in front of Mt. Bizan, the Yoshino River is so wide you may think for a moment that you are looking at the sea. It is more than two kilometers wide in some places, with the wildest rapids in Shikoku. Reeds, or yoshi, grow along the river bank, which is said to be how it got its name. There was a flock of wild birds at the river, and an unending chorus of their cheery songs filled the air.

2. Shijira-ori weaving

A traditional craft since the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868–1912), invented when a woman saw how cloth that had gotten wet in the rain formed little wrinkles, and found a way to weave the warp to achieve the look. Shijira-ori weaving was used for summer kimono, but now there are only two shops that continue this craft. From its factory with a retro-feeling saw-toothed roof, Nagao Orifu still weaves textiles today using traditional looms.

3. Lotus and lotus root

The sight of white and pink lotus flowers blooming in a lotus pond as far as the eye can see makes you feel like you’re in the Pure Land that Buddhism describes. As I was gazing blissfully at the scene, a local informed me that it was a field of lotus roots. Tokushima boasts the second-highest production of the edible lotus root in Japan. The juxtaposition of the beautiful flowers blooming in the practical field was strangely funny.

4. Sukumo master

The artisans who make sukumo are called sukumo masters. There are only five sukumo masters in Tokushima today. Osamu Nii is one of them, and he makes 300 bales of sukumo a year. The factories and creators all around Japan who use Japanese indigo wait every year for Nii’s sukumo. The Japanese indigo hand towel that he always wears wrapped around his head is splendid!

5. Indigo-dye master

Indigo-dye masters, or indigo dyers, are artisans who dye cloth using sukumo. Toshiharu Furusho is a sixth-generation indigo dyer, whose family business stretches back to the Edo Period (1603–1868). He has a charmingly simple way of speaking and a serious personality. He dyes cloth only using natural ingredients and traditional methods.


BUAISOU is creating a new movement for Awa indigo. Its young creators moved to Tokushima and started growing Japanese indigo, making sukumo, and dyeing cloth themselves. They hold Japanese indigo dyeing workshops in overseas locations like New York City and collaborate with other brands. In speaking with them, they made it clear that everything they do, from cultivating the Japanese indigo to dyeing with it, involves their passion for monozukuri, or the art and craft of making things.

7. Saai

The indigo-dye master Minako Tamura runs a dye studio and is also an artist in her own right. Her husband’s main job is serving as the head priest of a Buddhist temple that has been handed down in his family. The couple grows Japanese indigo in a field behind the temple, which she uses for her meticulous dyeing work. She creates books used to collect stamps at temples and shrines by dyeing Japanese washi paper and drawing patterns on it using glue infused with gold powder. They are exquisite.