Written on November 8, 2008
It’s been gloomy and grey here for days. This photo was shot midday, believe it or not: it looks like night time. I wanted to write a new post, and I wanted to show this incredible okuso kimono, possibly my favorite Japanese country textile here at Sri, so I decided to go ahead and work with the poor light.
Kuso or Okuso is waste or garbage. In this case, it refers to the waste created in the production of hemp yarn: this kimono was woven from the detritus and crude materials left over from hemp yarn making. This waste, or okuso, was spun into yarn and woven by rural people to make their garments. Most likely the better quality yarn they created from hemp plants was sold to those that could afford it, probably urbanites.
Okuso garments these days are extremely hard to find. This is the only boro okusozakkuri that I have seen, and what is amazing about it is its light blue colored patches and detailing. The name of this pale blue indigo is referred to as asagi in Japanese. Asagi is an important word to know if you are serious about Japanese folk textiles as it comes up a lot. What’s even better about these asagi patches is that some of them are katazome, or stencil resist cloth, and in this case, the fact that these katazome patches are of asagi on white, this is makes it even more special: katazome cloth is more commonly white on blue.
Okuso garments are very much discussed and pictured in the fabulous book “Riches from Rags: Saki-ori &” Other Recycling Traditions in Japanese Rural Clothing. Here at Sri I am extremely lucky to have two other okuso garments, you can see one here, but this is my favorite, both from the standpoint of rarity and aesthetics.