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Dyeing to feel a bit of history

by Andrew Lee

Staff Writer

Until the 1950s, the Ochiai and Nakai areas in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward were home to more than 300 small cloth-dyeing factories that would wash their vibrant kimono fabrics in the clear, clean water of the Kanda and Myoshoji rivers — it must have been a colorful sight.

Several small dyeing ateliers remain in the area, and since 2009 the Some no Komichi festival has sought to preserve and celebrate the history of the Yuzen and Edo Komon dyeing techniques. As part of the festival, 50 to 60 tanmono (a measure of kimono cloth 40 cm wide and 12 metres long) will be hung to float above the Myoshoji River to create a “river gallery.” Nearby, more than 50 local stores will display dyed noren (curtain signs hung in a shop’s entrance) specially designed by local artists for the festival’s road gallery.

Other eclectic activities on offer during the event include learning to dye at the Some no Sato Futaba-en gallery in Nakai and indulging in a classic English cream tea with real scones at Hudson Antiques.

Some no Komichi takes place Feb. 17-19 in the streets around Myoshojigawa Jisaibashi, located in front of Nakai Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) For more information, visit www.somenokomichi.com.