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A Long Boro Noragi: Sankuzushi Cloth

Written on August 2, 2010

As boro noragi, or patched and mended work coats go, this one is as handsome as they get.  The patches are beautifully placed; there is just the right amount of uncontrolled eccentricity in their arrangement and stitching.

However, for me, what makes this coat special is the base cloth, an indigo dyed cotton whose woven pattern is referred to in Japan as sankuzushi.In the photo above, and the two below, I’ve focused in on some of the stitched details, since they are so marvelous.  In the last photo, at the bottom of this post, I’ve zeroed in on the sankuzushi cloth, so you can have a better look at it.
In the photo below you will see the woven pattern that is one of my favorites: sometimes in Japan sankuzushi is called ajiro or “split bamboo mat.”   In any case, this kind of pattern was popular in 19th century Japan.  Its popularity probably had to do with its intricacy and its small pattern–keep in mind that throughout Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) sumptuary laws were levied on the general population, controlling, among other things, the kind of cloth one could wear.  Most Japanese were required to wear subtle clothing in somber colors. Another element that may have made this cloth attractive was its exotic origins.  My understanding is that this kind of cloth was first woven as export cloth in India and was subsequently copied in China.  Ultimately, the Japanese starting weaving their own version of this woven-looking cloth although it is still possible to find Indian and Chinese examples in Japan.

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5 Comments

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  1. Comment by Karen:

    I always find your posts educational and the photographs beautiful. I hope that you consider collecting them all together. They would make a marvelous book.

    August 2, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Comment by rob:

    Steven, please reserve me a copy of the book.

    August 3, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  3. Comment by paula:

    “just the right amount of uncontrolled eccentricity” — i think that’s my new goal in life. ^^ thanks!

    August 3, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  4. Comment by Lambert:

    This is stunning, I love it.

    August 7, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  5. Pingback from Booty….. « Paddy's Daughter:

    […] This one even has some mending….my own little piece of boro noragi […]

    August 10, 2010 @ 9:41 pm