August 22, 2023

The Captivating Colors of Japan, Japan Blue: The Art of Japanese Indigo Dyeing

The culture of Japan, with its refinement and subtlety, captivates people around the world. Among these captivating aspects is “Aizome,” or indigo dyeing. This traditional dyeing technique embodies both Japanese aesthetics and technical skill and is often referred to as “Japan Blue” due to its beautiful blue color.

Differences between Japanese and Foreign Indigo Dyeing

Typically, indigo dyeing around the world utilizes blue dye derived from the indigo plant. However, “Tade-ai,” primarily used in Japanese indigo dyeing, is particularly suitable for Japan’s climate and soil, giving birth to a unique deep blue. Japanese indigo dyeing also involves more effort and time compared to those of other countries, resulting in distinctive textures and colors.

The Method of Japanese Indigo Dyeing

Japanese indigo dyeing is a technique that harnesses the power of nature and time, with the process spanning several months. First, indigo seeds are planted and grown. Once matured, the plant is harvested and leaves are picked. These picked leaves are fermented with lye extracted from wood ash to create a dye called “Sukumo.” The fermentation process determines the depth and beauty of the indigo dye. Threads or fabric are then soaked in this indigo liquid. After soaking in the dye, the fabric is exposed to air. Initially, it turns a yellowish-brown color but gradually oxidizes to turn blue. By repeating this process many times, a deep blue color permeates the fabric.

The Origin of Japan Blue

This beautiful blue is the reason it is called “Japan Blue.” This name is a representation of the overseas appreciation and respect for Japanese indigo dyeing. Its vibrant blue color has a natural beauty reminiscent of the sea and sky. Moreover, Japanese indigo dyeing is highly esteemed not only for its color but also for its very method. The meticulous and time-consuming process is inextricably intertwined with traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Japanese indigo dyeing, with its refined beauty and rich history, is an art that captivates those who see it. Its unique color and process, and the “Japan Blue” it produces, can truly be said to be a symbol of Japanese art.

aizome image

Click here to see the works of Japanese indigo dyeing Aizome artist Yoko Kamitani