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Japanese Indigo (Aizome) 「藍染・あいぞめ」

A rack with 4 pieces of indigo dyed clothings on a hanger.

Good old Japanese tradition, indigo dyeing. Some of you may have heard the phrase "Japan blue" or "Samurai blue. This unique deep blue color is said to be one of the symbolic colors of Japan. The beauty of the deep blue color and the delicate craft of indigo dye have attracted a wide audience from ancient times to the present.

Aizome, a compound word made off Ai (indigo) and Some (to dye), is a dyeing technique using the "indigo" plant, and is said to be the oldest dye used by mankind. It was introduced to Japan in the Nara period (710-794) and was considered a noble color used by the nobles until the Heian period (794-1192). The oldest indigo dye in Japan, "hanadanoru," is kept in the Shosoin Repository in Nara Prefecture. From ancient Japanese landscapes to the hustle and bustle of modern cities, indigo-dyed clothing and accessories continue to float around people and the evolving society to stimulate their imaginations.

Production of Japanese Indigo

This mystic blue is produced in the Yoshino River basin in the northern part of Awa, Tokushima Prefecture. This area is the largest indigo dye production area in Japan, and it is the home of indigo, which continues to support Japan's traditional dyeing and weaving culture as artisans continue to produce the dye using traditional techniques.

The appeal of indigo dyeing lies in its deep blue color and unique texture. The indigo dye is extracted from natural plants, giving it richness and depth of color. As a result, indigo-dyed fabrics and clothing have beautiful patterns and shades of deep blue and a unique texture.

The dyeing process and technique of indigo dyeing are uniquely delicate and precise. When dyeing fabrics, unique techniques are used, such as repeatedly soaking the fabrics in the dye solution and oxidizing them under specific time and conditions. For this reason, each indigo-dyed product is made by hand, showing the skill and attention to detail of the craftsman.

Additional Facts

As we all know by know, indigo is widely known to be a color/dye, but it also has a history of being used like an herbal medicine. It was said to be effective in treating fever, detoxification, and food poisoning. For this reason, there is an old saying in Tokushima Prefecture, "Ai merchants never get sick".

Deep, deep blue Japan blue

I hope this article has given you some interesting insights to what makes Japanese Indigo unique and the reason behind it's popularity from not just modern fashion enthusiasts but also society from the past.


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