|Business card for Indigo shop|
After leaving Tokushima I headed back to Shiga Prefecture, which is Michigan's Sister State. I was still looking for waterfalls so before I had left Michigan I did another search and found www.shiga-ken.com. It is a website guide "In pictures and English" to Shiga. It is extensive and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Shiga or traveling there. (And http://photoguide.jp/ for all parts of Japan.) But, on the website at least, no waterfalls to be found.
The owner of the website obviously knew all about Shiga so I contacted him and asked him if he knew of any. To his surprise, and mine that he admitted it, he replied back that he hadn't even thought about them! He went to a bookstore and found a book published in 2010 that featured over 40 waterfalls in Shiga! Bonanza to my way of thinking.
(I will detail the waterfall adventures in another post.)
After much emailing and scheduling I was amazed to find myself meeting Philbert Ono for a day of exploring Konan, St. Johns Michigan's Friendship City. (St. Johns is 8 miles from Ovid - the nearest city).
Here is a recap of part of the day:
- Left JR Kusatsu Station 8:59 am on the JR Kusatsu Line. - Arrived Mikumo Station in Konan at 9:19 am. - Took a taxi from Mikumo Station to Mikumo
Fudo-no-taki Waterfall. In the waterfall book, this is Waterfall No. 14
on page 97. - Took a taxi from the waterfall to Konki Senshoku
indigo dyeing factory for tie-dyeing a handkerchief. Konki Senshoku Indigo Factory
|Shop front with beautiful pot-grown iris|
I was still trying to find out about indigo so when he mentioned the possibility of going to a traditional shop and actually dyeing something, I was excited! I use indigo a lot in my prints and something I really wanted to know more about.
I learned that indigo is a plant. This photo shows plants only days old. The proprietor crushed a young leaf in his fingers until his fingers turned blue!
Photos of growing and harvesting indigo.
It is cut when about 18" high and dried.
It is crushed and then "cooked" or fermented. He told us it took him 9 years to learn about indigo from his father. He spent the first 3 years just watching. Only after 9 years was he allowed to be on his own.
I was given a white handkerchief to wrap however I wished with rubber bands and string. He attached the string that I would hang on to while dipping it.
(There are more pictures and a video I am trying to paste in here.)
The finished product!
A GORGEOUS vat of indigo!
The shop and showroom.
The back story:
As I mentioned, this man apprenticed for 9 years. He is now 78 and the last traditional indigo maker in the region. There is no apprentice to him - no one to take over the shop or, more importantly, the knowledge. What a treasure this man is. Phil spent quite a bit of time doing a video interview about him and his work. It will be an important work as time goes on and I was happy to be there with him to hear the story.