A few weeks ago I did a trip to the Japan Folk House Museum, just minutes out of Tokyo, but a world away. Its grounds have a selection of over 20 traditional farmhouses from various regions of Japan, and many of the traditional methods of farming and cooking are demonstrated in each house. It was a very interesting trip, apart from the fact that it started snowing as soon as we got there.... Lunch was eaten in a barely-heated soba restaurant, sitting on tatami mats with no shoes on! After lunch, we got to try our hand at traditional indigo dyeing in a workshop on the grounds. It was a lot of fun, if a tad cold!
The houses are made using an intricate layer of beautifully stacked straw. The outer straw wall is used as protection during snowy periods. Families often moved up to the higher floors when snow became too high. The second floor became ground level!
The straw roofs are amazingly thick with a solid scaffold of bamboo underneath, which can be seen from inside the house. I love the cracked earth walls.
At the indigo dye workshop, we were given lots of items to play with. We each had a handkerchief sized piece of cotton and could use clips, marbles, film cases etc to tie around our handkerchiefs before they were dyed.
I chose to use a marble in the centre and some clips around the outside, with some elastic bands to create a tie dye effect.
The fabric pieces were then placed into the indigo dye in lovely big vats that were sunken into the floor. The vats are enormous and made from hand thrown clay.
The fabric pieces were dipped twice to make the colour stronger and they came out looking like this - a beautiful deep indigo blue. Mine is the middle piece.