Sanae Naito, contemporary chusen dyer, Tokyo

sanae naito: contemporary chusen dyer

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By Patricia Belyea

TOKYO JP  Artist Sanae Naito came to my hotel early as she had a full-day of chusen-dyeing adventures planned for the day. Our first stop, after three subway/train transfers, was a visit to the head offices of Rienzome Company—the oldest chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo.

The outside of the unpretentious building was decorated with framed chusen-dyeing stencils. Note, on the close-up, how the mesh keeps all the parts of the design together.

Chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo

We were ushered into a meeting room where pillows were laid out on the floor and green tea was poured for all.

Chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo

The highlight of our visit was a chat with Eiji Kobayashi, a fifth generation member of the family who founded Rienzome Company in1872. Today Mr. Kobayashi’s son Kenji leads the company.

Chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo

Mr. Miyakawa showed us a tenugui (Japanese wash cloth) with a classic woodblock design, and a washi paper stencil that had been prepared for chusen dyeing. He also let us wander though the high stacks of folded and packaged chusen-dyed tenugui in the upstairs warehouse.

Chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo CompanyWarehouse CompanyWarehouse2

Demand for hand-dyed yukata cotton has declined in recent years. All the same, we found a cabinet filled with gorgeous chusen-dyed yukata cottons that made my heart sing!

Yukata cotton at chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo

Our next stop was within walking distance—Edo Kiriko filled with exquisite glassware cut in traditional patterns. Paired with the glittering glass masterpieces were chusen-dyed tenugui by Rienzome Company.

Chusen-dyed cotton paired with cut glasssware in Edo Kiriko shop in Tokyo Chusen-dyed cotton at Edo Kiriko shop in Tokyo

After a perfect lunch at a chichi Japanese restaurant, we continued to one of the best-known craft shops in Tokyo. All the same, you could walk right past the Decola sign if you weren’t in the know!

Up some robins-egg blue stairs, a simple door opened to a world of eclectic handmade treasures.

Deccola craft shop in Tokyo Deccola craft shop in Tokyo Deccola craft shop in Tokyo Deccola craft shop in Tokyo Deccola craft shop in Tokyo

In one corner was a table of Sanae’s contemporary chusen-dyed tenugui under her brand, Crazy Texiles. Her stencil designs are all made by hand and she handles every step of the production of her hand-dyed products.

Crazy Textiles by Sanae Naito in Decola craft shop in Tokyo Crazy Textiles by Sanae Naito in Deccola craft shop in Tokyo

Our final stop was Sanae’s petite office where we sipped black tea and viewed her bigger chusen-dyed projects. Sanae is a part-time lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design, and an exhibiting textile artist.

Sanae Naito, contemporary chusen dyer, Tokyo Contemporary chusen-dyed cottons by Sanae Naito, Tokyo

One large chusen-dyed scarf, inspired by a pearl necklace, was presented to me at the end of our day together. It was a grand gesture that added more to my gratitude for being toured around by the brilliant and gentle Sanae.

Sanae Naito, contemporary chusen dyer, Tokyo Office2

To visit Sanae Naito’s website +click here

To visit the website of the Rienzome Company +click here

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ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.