The first Arimatsu Shibori goods were sold just a few years after Japan’s first shogun unified the warring country and opened the major roadway of Tokaido Road which connected the old aristocratic capital of Kyoto with the new samurai capital of Edo (today’s Tokyo). Though the first goods were hand towels made from cotton, the intricacy of variety of their patterns caught the eye of every passerby. People started talking of these “mysterious hand towels” of Arimatsu, and the increasingly busy Tokaido Road was the perfect conduit to spread the word. These hand towels soon became a must have item for anyone embarking on a trip.
Arimatsu Town grew and so did the shibori-some (tie and die) goods. The range of customers grew as well. Powerful regional lords and samurai on their way to and from attending court of the Shogun stopped in Arimatsu to buy kimono and materials not available in their home areas. Regular townspeople from around the country passing through on their way to complete a pilgrimage to the famous Ise Shrine also bought yukata robes, hand towels and other goods with the distinctive Arimatsu style. The popularity Arimatsu’s clothing extended across all classes of people. The regional samurai lord of Owari which included Arimatsu Town declared the clothing a special regional product and the area became an official purveyor to the lord and samurai of the Owari area. The town was growing, and so was Arimatsu Shibori as the crafts workers continued to improve their skills and techniques which started to number over 100.
Nagoya’s econmy boomed and fostered its own independent Popular culture, helped on by the local samurai lord Tokugawa Muneharu from1730.
The number of people traveling on the Tokaido Road greatly grows as townspeople have more money to make a religious pilgramage to Ise Shrine. and regional lorad are commanded to attend the Shogun’s court in Edo (Tokyo)
With the growth in Arimatsu Shibori’s popularity from merchants and craftsmen to becoming an official brand of the samurai, there was a new sense of cross-class culture developing. The Arimatsu style was not from either the old aristocratic culture, nor exclusively part of the samurai class culture. Owari’s (today’s Nagoya) economy started to boom and by 1680 a golden age of the Edo era was reached. The local lord encouraged the emerging popular culture fo be consumed by people of all classes. This new social culture and Arimatsu fashion developed into its independent culture and was called “Nagoya Iki”, or Nagoya Avant Garde”. it was represented in the famous Ukiyoe woodblock print series by famous artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige during this time. Famous poets and haiku authors also wrote about Arimatsu Shibori.
The end of the Edo era came with the opening of Japan’s borders. Arimatsu Shibori found its way to western Europe where the clothing was awarded a bronze prize at the Paris World Expo in 1900, followed by a silver prize in 1905 at the London Expo. The craftsmanship, artistic skill and beauty of Arimatsu Shibori-some was highly praised by artists and critics alike and this study of Japanese aesthetics was called Japonism. Both the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau were greatly influenced by this.
Today, there is a kind of“neo-Japanism” occurring with Arimatsu Shibori. Internationaly renown Japanese fashion designers such as Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto have used Arimatsu Shibori to create stunning and never seen before fabrics and fashion. Traditional and new styles of Arimatsu Shibori continue to be appreciated by royalty such as Japan’s Emperor and the United Kingdom’s royal family, and is popular among the fashion aficionados from across all of society. New techniques in tying and dyeing are still being developed and when applied to today’s modern materials Arimatsu Shibori can be found in large stage production costumes, hotel lobby installations to soft and elegantly patterned translucent curtains blowing in a small country home.
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