Last October, my friend and I went to Shiga prefecture to visit Uenishi san.  I think he is 81 years old.  His eyebrows are truly amazing, but more than that, he is seventh generation indigo dyer.  His atelier is called KONKI.

Actually, I had heard about this man a long time ago, when I bought an indigo dyed shirt in a shop, the guy who sold it to me asked me if I liked indigo.  when I said “sure!” he told me there is an old man in Shiga who is looking for a predecessor.  I imagined myself going there and spending the rest of my days in Shiga!  After some internet surfing I found Uenishi san’s phone number and started planning my visit.

There were 10 indigo vats, set in the ground, we had brought some clothes to dye.  After evaluation how much it would cost to dye each piece, he took us to the vats and showed us how to go about the dyeing process, gently drop the cloth in the vat, and let it sit there a little, then gently pull out and let the air oxydize the indigo.  We repeated this process to out heart’s content.

Depending on the thickness of the cloth, the material of the cloth, the colors were all different.  One of them came out almost black.  When my friend said “It looks so black” Uenishi san’s wife told us, “that is what we call AI”.

I remember him leaving us with the vats, and telling us we could do as much as we wanted, he used the word “TOKUSHIN”, which means something like a satisfied heart.  He is going to be the last craftsman at KONKI as there are no predecessors…  I can’t help thinking about the number of traditional indigo dyeing houses that have been lost with time…  tears…


Here are a few articles in Japanese about this beautiful place.