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A Cascade of Cooling Blues

Written on July 5, 2012

It’s HOT in New York–and humid, too.  That said, there is nothing like the stifling heat and humidity of a  Japanese summer to put New York to shame.  Japan’s a wet furnace in high summer, and there is little escape, except to never leave air conditioning, which is nearly impossible to do.Enter cooling patterns on hemp or ramie textiles which are rendered in asagi or pale blue.  The mere sight of these lyrical images and the icy blue color brings a bit of psychological relief from the pressing heat–and this is exactly what these textiles were meant to do: suggest subtle breezes, running mountain water, a cool clearing in the forest.

These panels are taken from a summer futon cover: the linen feel of ramie or hemp cloth is much preferable to the heavier touch of water-saturating cotton cloth.  Ramie and hemp textiles are crisp and they graze the body; they don’t cling to you in the same was that cotton does.

The swirling patterns, too, help conjure cooling thoughts.  On a particularly hot summer day in Japan, I remember welcoming the sight of rich, blue hydrangeas, whose color shaved ten degrees off the heat.  Or so it seemed.

Summer yukatas or the unlined, casual kimonos that are often worn at onsen or hot springs, are usually patterned with these heat-alleviating designs.  On a very hot day, which leads to a very hot evening, any help to escape the uncomfortable temperatures is welcome, even if help comes in the form of a pretty pattern.

And I bet that you feel a few degrees cooler just looking at these photos….don’t you?



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  1. Comment by glennis:

    there really is little to compare to the hot humid summers in Japan. one can acclimate to it a bit over time but hemp fabrics do offer some relief. the lighter ones here do have an “icy” quality about them. sometimes it’s just mind over matter…

    July 5, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

  2. Comment by pam newton:

    Too cool — & lovely! Thanks for this moment of relief, hot here in Philly too.

    July 6, 2012 @ 9:15 am