Kyoto designer weaves chocolate-dyed kimono to honor 150 years of Japanese-Italian ties

A designer from Kyoto has succeeded in producing a sweet-smelling kimono dyed with chocolate to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Japan’s diplomatic relations with Italy, a major chocolate producer.

Ready to be unveiled this month at a kimono fashion show in Turin, Italy, Nobuaki Tomita’s silk garment — a white robe with chocolate-colored foliage scrolls and sash — was four years in the making.

He said his first attempt to dye a kimono with chocolate in 2012 failed to produce the desired result, with the fragrance and color washing out when he steamed the fabric at the high temperature he thought necessary to maintain the coloring.

With the help of Turin and other partners, he embarked on his second attempt last October. In addition to the solid chocolate he used four years ago, he also used cocoa from Turin. It took more than 100 attempts to fine-tune the best mix of materials.

Tomita took up the challenge out of concern about the future of craftsmanship in Japan’s ancient capital. “We’ve seen a growing number of professionals in traditional arts and crafts disappear each year,” he said. “By demonstrating a new form of art to the world, I hope to maintain traditions in Kyoto.”

Italy was the fourth-largest source of chocolate products for Japan, accounting for 10.3 percent in 2014, following Belgium, the United States and France, according to Finance Ministry data.