Story of Nanbu Sakiori

Travelling to meet the women’s hand craft work

Traditional crafts are produced are closely related with places. Nanbu Sakiori which is produced in Nanbu province straddles between Aomori and Iwate is also closely related with the place and with the women craft workers. We’ve visited the Nanbu Sakiori studio in Towada.

At 10am one Wednesday morning, women are gathering and saying “Good Morning!” Approximately 20 women or so are gathered today, and sometimes nearly 50 women gather. Without any orders, some people start to sweep the floor and other people start to clean with a cloth. Before long, the sounds of the weaving machines start to rumble in the studio. Women usually gather in the studio and weave Sakiori once a week.
The place where the cotton could not grow very well because of the cold weather, the cotton remnants were sent from as far as Kanto or Kinki and people made clothes and Futons with these remnants. When the remnants were rubbed and were not able to be used anymore, then, they were torn up to make long strings. And again, they will be the textile fabrics to be the woof after being woven with the machines. “Nanbu Sakiori” is produced with the idea to esteem the materials and to use them until they become useless. The best feature of “Nanbu Sakiori” is woven with the clothes not the strings and it is naturally thick with a warm finish. “Nanbu Sakiori” is the one and only best textile fabrics remaining memory of the ancient times. Towada-city brought back to life “Nanbu Sakiori” which was almost dead and Eiko Sugano set up “Nanbu Sakiori Hozonkai” (Nanbu Sakiori Preservation Association) in Towada-city. She fell under the spell of the beauty of Sakiori woven products, and started to search for someone who could weave it and to search for a weaving machine. At the onset, it was started by Eriko Sugano only, many people gave their approval to her activity and “Nanbu Sakiori” came back to life again.
Women operate the weaving machines, tear up the clothes and hang the strings here and there in the studio. The space is full of their chattering voices such as “I went to my grandchildren’s sports day festival and ….” “Please take the vegetables grown in my garden back to your family.” and “Oh, that’s just unreasonable, isn’t it?” The space is always full of various voices of their emotions. Those women are wives, mothers and also have their own work bring various emotions such as pleasure, sadness, anger and excitement etc. Active feelings of their lives are woven in Sakiori. “We use Kimonos, Yukatas and sheets sent from many people for Sakiori. We weave them whilst thinking of the person who was using it before. We can’t make the same thing ever again, but that might be the wonderful point.” One of the weavers said this and laughed.
It is said that the feature of “Nanbu Sakiori” is the color red. At a time in the past, people wished for the God of fire face down whilst using the red Kotatsu cover, and now, women wish for Talisman with the red Sakiori. “Nanbu Sakiori” is the textile fabric with the backbone of well-rounded women’s voices.

Clothes having various histories are gathered so they can be torn up to make strings. This cloth is a red colored Yukata.
Ear pleasing sounds of rat a tat rumble in the studio and women’s laughing voices are mixed here.

Sakiori and I

Michiko Araki
Experience with Sakiori: 3 years

I’m now addicted to Sakiori. The first time I met Sakiori was my Kimono dressing teacher’s Obi. I’ve started Sakiori attracted by her Obi, because even it was not formal but had a textured beauty. The more I weave, the more I enjoy it and now I’m always sitting in front of the weaving machine when I find the spare time almost every day. The best time when I can concentrate on the weaving is early in the morning from 4am to 6am. I have to cook the lunch boxes from 6am and after that, have to do the house keeping works, too. What am I thinking while weaving? Actually, I’m thinking nothing. I would never know how it will look like until I finish weaving, that’s way, it is difficult but interesting for me.

Yoko Kokubu
Experience with Sakiori: 10 years

The weaving machine in my house is the second one which was given to me by my friend who was not using it. It is usually situated in the premium space near my garden so I could enjoy doing it very much whilst seeing the change of the seasons outside. Although, all my family said that I might become bored very soon, it is curious to say that I’ve never been bored doing Sakiori at all. Making the strings for Sakiori is also an interesting part and I always lose all concept of time as teasing the clothes. My friends who know that I’m enjoying teasing the clothes bring their own clothes which they don’t need any more.

The clothes they have are woven only for KOE From.

Toyo Takahashi
Experience with Sakiori: 10 years

I’ve just started to weave the cloth dyed with vegetable dyes after this navy cloth. Natural colors of the village forests which are not all strong but so beautiful such as lotus, madder, cherry blossoms and camellia. Even if I couldn’t start up my engine by myself, I get myself excited to come here once a week. There are a lot of women who weave wonderful clothes and each Sakiori shows their personality. As seeing that, I feel like “I want to do it myself, too!”

Echiko Nagahata
Experience with Sakiori: 14 years

I’d quit my job when I suffered from the quite big disease when I was 49 years old. Taking advantage of that opportunity, I’ve got the chance to start Sakiori which I knew very well since my neighbor was doing it when I was a child. Originally, I’ve been sewing Kimonos and I like hand works so it wasn’t so hard for me. From then, I was hospitalized sometimes and had to stop Sakiori for a while, so I’ve continued it off and on. Sakiori adds excitement to my life. “Do I have any self-confident works? Actually, there are a lot!” (Laugh) I like the red kind of colors so I often weave with those colors.

Michiko Sawahashi
Experience with Sakiori: 25 years

Once I had an experience to take an order from a fashionable customer “Could you please make my coat from Sakiori?” I felt admiration that was a great idea. And I weaved the coat using a lot of navy clothes. The coat looks normal if you see it from a distance, you can see the detailed weaving very well if you take a closer look. I thought the coat was so cool even if I do say so myself. It is a good memory to receive a letter to say “I feel nice every time I wear it” from that customer. Now, I’m looking forward to know how these Sakiori will be changed and send to you.

Yumiko Sawato
Experience with Sakiori: 32 years

Everybody starts Sakiori by watching someone’s example at first and gradually understands the difficulties such as which cloth to use, what color to use and where to switch the clothes etc. The most important thing is to think with your head. And someday in the future, they would find their own tastes naturally such as “This color must be hers! This weave must be hers!” It is also interesting when their works are sold as a product, they suddenly have their confidence. I think the good point of Sakiori is not an art but something attached to our lives.

KOE From SAKIORI Clutch(L)
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KOE From SAKIORI Clutch(M)
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KOE from × Nanbu Sakiori

The day we visited the place in Aomori for interview was Tanabata festival day.
At this time when Orihime is looking forward to meet Hikoboshi as weaving in the roof of heaven, the women in Towada were weaving the colorful Sakiori above ground.
Nanbu Sakiori has re-born the colorful warm textile fabrics by tearing old clothes.

Of all things, the weavers were most looking forward to weaving the cloth for the bags of “KOE From” and were so excited.
Even though we asked the hard period and the amount, we heard that there were so many women who said “I would like to do it!”
They all laughed with pleasure to see that we gave the beautiful patterns and the color matchings Sakiori a cheer.
And then, we understood that they don’t want to keep the weaving tradition alive as a chore, but they really enjoy and love them from the bottom of their hearts.

This time, we made three kinds of bags for autumn and winter with the warm clothes which are full of the women’s ingenious ideas and love.
Every bag has their own pattern and colors so all of them are unique with only one in the world.
Please select your one and only Nanbu Sakiori at the shops or the on-line store and take it out in the cold winter.


Interview Cooperation
Nanbu Sakiori Hozonkai
“Michinoeki Towadapia”
Takum Studio “Nanbu Sakiori no Sato”
Aza Hirakubo 37-21 Ooaza Denhouji
Towada, Aomori
TEL: 0176-20-8700

koe from towada
edited by soken ito
written by yoshiko asano (nico edit)
photo by norio kidera

Written by Miwako Hosokawa

Designed by Ryoji Tanaka (Semitransparent Design)

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