In early January when we were fine-tuning my trip plans, I emailed a Tokyo friend to ask if she could recommend any little neighborhoods or shops somewhat off the beaten track that might be of interest to Molly and me during our four days in the city. She emailed right back with more questions and a brief description of a tenugui shop in Ningyo-cho that she thought we might enjoy. Since that was exactly the kind of suggestion I was hoping for, I immediately Googled *tenugui* and *Ningyo-cho* and emailed to thank her for the great idea.
Armed with a map and a printout from my Googling, we set out one morning for Ningyo-cho, in search of Takatora. It was easy to find and upon ringing the bell to gain entry, we were greeted by its artisan-owner, Mr. Takahashi. To call him a *character* would be an understatement. From our entry, he kept up an animated dialogue with poor Molly (almost a monologue, as she struggled to keep up with his detailed explanations) as he showed us all of his work, explaining in detail the many plays-on-words incorporated into many of his designs.
The tenugui at Takatora were all of Mr. Takahashi's design, and mostly quite bold. The tiny shop made picture taking near impossible, and I wondered at Jennifer's recommendation that her visiting friends had had a lot of fun there, despite our total enjoyment of the proprietor. Finally, we each chose one to bring home and while they were being wrapped up, I had Molly ask him if there were other artisan shops in the neighborhood. Since Ningyo-cho means *dolltown*, my hopes were high but dashed on that count. He did mention another tenugui shop in the area, however, and drew out an elaborate map for us to follow.
It couldn't have been a more beautiful day! We stopped at a street stand on our way and bought some delicious, dried persimmons. (We got quite a few extra thrown into the bag because the owner was *honored* that I wanted to take pictures of his stand.)
Several more blocks and a little back-tracking later, we arrived at Chidori-ya, clearly the shop that Jennifer had been referring to. How lucky that we stumbled on to it despite my jumping the gun and thinking I had found her recommendation on Google!
So what's a tenugui? I wrote about them in a past post, but I'll quote a little informational flyer ("what's TENUGUI?") that the shop put into my bag.
TENUGUI is a very familiar and usefull tool for the Japanese since the EDO period (1630~) as a thin Japanese towel made of cotton. We could just say "TENUGUI is a Japanese traditional towel", but not only was it used as a wiping tool such as a towel or a handkerchief, it was also used as a dishcloth, headband, souvenir and a tapestry for decorating your rooms!
Its water absorptivity is excellent! also drys very fast so it's hygenic too (the edges of the cloth wasn't done any special care on purpose and it makes TENUGUI drys much faster.) It's typically about 35*90cm in size so you can fold it thinly and not be bulkey at all.
In addition as for the TENUGUI, the clothe itself gradually softens by embezzing it so please enjoy that changing.
There is a charm of a Japanese towel to numerous of the handle. There are a meaning and a play to each handle, and the design that was prevalent from what was used as a handle of the kimono which a Kabuki actor wore other than the handle which made nature and a plant, an animal a motif in the Edo era stays in the present age and feels a change of Japanese culture to open in 35*90cm and limited cloth, and will not it be charm that I can take it in hand?
During my travels, I picked up tenugui in Yokkaichi and Kobe as well as Tokyo. You can find them everywhere, though the tourist types are often of a looser weave. I was particularly on the hunt for some off-beat small prints in a tight-ish weave, like those above, to use in quilts.
Several that I purchased won't be cut up for piecing. I'll finish the ends and hang them for display or use them as table runners. These are three of my favorites.
And look...I was able to photograph them on my new design wall! I hadn't yet gotten my sewing room together when the bad weather hit in the fall so we took advantage of Sunday's sunny, 60 degree weather to head to Home Depot for the insulation board and haul it home on the car roof. I finished covering it yesterday. You know what this means...? Sewing can't be far behind!
*If you are planning a visit to Tokyo, I'd highly recommend visiting each of these shops!