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Discovering the Art of Natural Dyeing in Japan

Updated: Jan 23


"Where should I go to learn natural dyeing in Japan?"


I often get this question from natural dye lovers who is visiting Japan.

And I often think "I wish I could join them and share how enjoyable it is to visit dyeing studios in Kyoto together." So... I have been planning to organize a natural dyeing tour (or convention!) in Kyoto in 2025 or 2026.

Who is interested to join me? Message me to make sure you get official announcement.


I am from Kanasai area, Osaka and Kyoto. I'm fortunate to call Kyoto home, where I can connect with diverse artisans. Kyoto, renowned for its natural dyeing and Sake brewing, owes its craft to the soft clean well water. The city's artisans have a long history of serving royal families, shrines and temples for generations. These artisans have preserved their skills and protected their secret "recipes" from others. Unfortunately, these studios still don't accept any visitors. However, many new rising studios have been starting to offer hands-on learning experiences.


There are so many natural dyeing studios all over in Japan. I can only speak for wherever I have visited in Kansai area. Here are some of my favorite studios I have visited.


Mr. Aoki at Tezome-Ya

In 2015, I visited TEZOMEYA (hand dye shop) in Kyoto. Mr. Aoki is the very well known natural dyer and he published several natural dyeing books. I tried areca nuts dyeing and I learned so much from him. It seems like he moved to the new location since then, but it seems like he is having people over for the workshops.


TEZOME-YA


Mitsuru Kougei
We tried printing with persimmon dye ink

MITSURU KOUGEI Persimmon Dyeing Studio is located about one hour north from Kyoto City. You need a car to get there, but it's so worth to rent a car and visit Ohara. It is one of my favorite spot in Kyoto with gorgeous temples. Persimmon Dye is one of our very special traditional Japanese dye. Along with Indigo, you don't have to mordant. The gorgeous brown to black color is one of my favorite color of all time.

MITSURU KOUGEI


Photo is from Ohara Studio

OHARA Studio is also located in Ohara. Not only you can experience dyeing but also you can request learnings spinning and weaving. I tried cotton spinning and dyeing there, and I learned spinning was not for me... (It was so hard!) I don't know they speak English, but you can always ask and hey, you can use google translation!


OHARA Studio


Mr. Nakanishi at Miyabi-ori mixing the sukumo indigo vats

I tried wax resist for the first time. It was so much fun

I visited the indigo dyeing studio, MIYABI-ORI in 2015 as well. ORI means weaving. The studio has been working for weaving / kimono studios for a long time. When I visited there, many indigo dyers were dyeing long skeins of silk and cotton. It was just breathtaking to see gorgeous blue strings. The location is a bit off the grid from the center of Kyoto city. It is in Yamashina district in Kyoto. However, I was able to visit them with train, subway and a car ride! They offer variety of workshops to choose from such as half day, all day or just dyeing one handkerchief.



Naoto, the owner of Draw Dots Dawn

I visited this indigo dyeing studio in Fushimi, Kyoto in Summer 2023.

Naoto is a young up coming natural sukumo indigo dyer/ indigo plants farmer in Kyoto.

He is very open to show the process of dyeing and growing Persicaria tinctoria plants.

I LOVED his indigo studio where he renovated his grandparents old house.

It is not easy to get there from the train station, but you can take a cab.

***Make sure you stop by Sake breweries and Fushimi Inari shrine, in Fushimi as well.


Draw Dots Dawn


My mom and Mr. Kato, Indigo Dyer/ Sukumo maker at Watanabe's

If you are "Indigo Heads", you have to visit Tokushima.

Tokushima is NOT in Kansai area, it is in Shikoku island. It is about 3 hours drive from Kyoto, Osaka. (Highly recommend to rent a car since everything is spread out in Tokushima. )

Tokushima has such a rich history of growing Persicaria tinctoria plants and its famous sukumo, fermented composted indigo.


Drying Indigo Leaves at Watanabe's

Again, there are many indigo studios in Tokushima, but I loved my workshop experience at the Watanabe's studio. The very knowledgeable dyer showed me not only the process of dyeing, history, but also everything where they grow indigo plants and make sukumo. They have the beautiful catalog in English as well : )

***Make sure to visit the awesome hot spring spot, MISATO NO YU & Awagami paper factory where you can make washi paper and dye papers with indigo.


Watanabe's







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