Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Tip of a Textile Iceberg

Hiroko Iwatate began traveling the world to collect textiles about five decades ago and has not stopped since.  Her Indian collection alone amounts to several thousand pieces, a small part of the overall inventory.  Southeast Asia and Japan are also heavily represented. Her small museum can accommodate only a fraction of what she owns at one time, but the exhibitions are beautifully curated.  Iwatate-san is usually on hand during the limited opening hours and, if she’s not busy, she’ll tell you the stories behind each and every piece.  

Up now at the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum: Homemade Children's Garments - India to Japan. All but a few of the items are from Hiroko Iwatate's vast collection. We visited yesterday and got a personal tour. The photo is from the museum's home page.

It's an amazing place, one we'll highlight in our upcoming guide, "Textile Lovers' Tokyo." To receive your free copy, click the Ajimi Ichiba link on the right side of this page and sign up for news and deals at the bottom of page one. We'll pop the guide into your inbox as soon as it's available.


Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm (last entrance at 4:30 pm) during exhibitions.
Address: Jiyugaoka 1-25-13, Iwatate Building (岩立ビル) 3F
Telephone: 03-3718-24 61

Nearest station: Jiyugaoka on the Tokyu Toyoko Line and the Tokyu Oimachi Line.
English website:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Haori: The Inside Story

It can be tough to assign a precise date to antique and vintage haori.  One helpful hint: the more elaborate the lining, the older it is.  The patterns on the linings of many early 20th-century haori in our collection are almost as exuberant as the patterns on the outside. By the mid- to late-20th century, haori linings had become far more tame.  They were still made of silk, and sometimes out of rinzu brocade, but in shades of ivory and pastel rather than the riot of colors and images of a half-century earlier.

One line of thinking is that, under centuries of sumptuary laws that dictated what kind of clothing people could wear - class by class - the lower orders got accustomed to hiding their most elegant textiles where the authorities couldn't see them.  That applied to garment linings, as well as undergarments such as juban whose fabric designs can be quite elaborate.  Or maybe the pattern-mad Japanese designers of 100 years ago simply couldn't resist covering every square inch of fabric with as much color and imagery as possible.

We hope you enjoy these examples from the Ajimi Ichiba collection.