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Feeling a Bit Blue

It astounds me that it's already the end of August. Time has seemed to pass in a bit of a blur: one hot, sticky mess of 100-degree days and only mildly more bearable evenings. I was also fortunate to visit the U.S. for a week (not Chicago I'm afraid, but Wheeling, West Virginia and then San Francisco) for a family reunion. It was lovely to see all the aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn't seen in person for several months, if not years. But given the short visit I essentially spent two weeks with my body clock completely confused about what time zone it was supposed to be in.  However, I'm now I'm back in Japan for the near future and have essentially settled back in to my usual rhythm of life. 

This past weekend I decided to engage with my arts-and-crafts side. The summer of 2009, when I first visited Japan, I was lucky enough to try my hand at aizome (indigo dying) in Kyoto. Recently I had a hankering to try it again, and e-stumbled upon a shop in Asakusa called Wanariya. I was able to make a last-minute appointment and I rolled up that same day to their dedicated workshop space (they have another building that just sells their indigo-dyed products) ready to engage in what is, essentially, classy tie-dye. I had forgotten, however, that it was the weekend of the Asakusa Samba Carnival so the entire area was packed and streets were impossible to cross (I also felt super bad for the dance crews--it was at least 95 degrees out before accounting for the humidity). 

Nevertheless, I finally made it. Wanariya has a plethora of items you can choose to dye (T-shirts, hats, tote bags, scarves etcetc.), so there's something for everyone. The entire process is fairly simply: the staff show you how to do various simple techniques with some combination of folding, rubber bands, glass marbles, and Saran wrap and then set you loose on your designated item.

I elected to dye a fringed scarf. Here I am with my rubber-banded creation. 

Apparently there are 48 shades of indigo? It's also surprising how much the different shades are officially used on the national level. For instance, the color on the bottom right is the color for the Japanese soccer team uniforms. A shade of indigo was also used for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo.

After we had finished our rubber banding, we were handed an apron and a pair of opera glove-length rubber gloves. After giving our items a quick rinse in water, we were instructed to plunge them up to our wrists in a vat of dye and then swish and squish them around. 

After a minute or so we were told to pull them out. We then just held them in the air a bit, to let them oxidize. It was really interesting watching the dye change from a copper-like green to a deeper blue-black. Then it was a matter of semi-literal "rinse and repeat" until the fabric was as dark as we wanted it to be. I dipped mine in three times.

It just looks like a wrinkled mess at this point.

Afterwards we handed everything off to the staff, who did something mysterious to set the dye and semi-dry the cloth so we could take it home. 

Here's my finished product! I went for a size gradient in my circles, with varied success: 

It's unfortunate that I won't be able to use this until the weather gets cooler, but I had a blast channeling my inner childlike tie-dye artist.

Also, as I was walking around the area, I saw this guy casually walking his pig...I am literally incapable of imagining how this massive, hirsute beast can live in a Japanese-sized apartment.

September is looking to be quite busy, with several planned hikes and visits from family and friends, so I should have quite a bit to talk about in the near future. The Japan Times' office is also moving, so in a few weeks I'll be in this intimidating-looking tower in Kioicho:

But my commute will be shorter so despite the relatively hectic pre-move preparation, I'm excited for the change!


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