Aichi: 91-year-old woman continues traditional tie-dyeing craft

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Suzue Kondo works on Arimatsu Shibori products in her home studio in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture.

KARIYA, Aichi — A 91-year-old woman in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, works for five to eight hours every day in her home studio as an Arimatsu Shibori tie-dye artisan, practicing a skill that is recognized by the government as a traditional craft.

With few opportunities to go out because of the novel coronavirus, Suzue Kondo said, “I can concentrate on my work.”

Her highly precise work is called “kukuri,” and with needle in hand she sews threads in loops around cloths to create patterns that are revealed after the fabrics have been dyed.

Kondo began working in the Arimatsu Shibori industry when she was 6. Her grandmother, who was also a kukuri artisan, taught her the craft and she gradually acquired the skills.

For 85 years, Kondo has continued the craft, while also working as a farmer.

The production of Arimatsu Shibori cloth is roughly divided into five processes — pattern engraving, pattern printing, kukuri, dyeing cloth and removing threads.

The stitching and tightening of threads is a hard, repetitive job that has calloused her fingers and changed the shape of her nails.

“Even if it’s one by one, I want to continue kukuri while I’m healthy and produce as many rolls of cloth as possible,” she said.