As yukata (light cotton kimono) became common streetwear among Edoites, cotton tenugui hand towels likewise became a fashionable “must” accessory.
Thrown casually over the shoulder en route to the public bath, they were the mark of a true Edo native. Being a bodycare item, the most basic ones were primarily white in color.
But, ever playful with their designs, Edoites created all manner of fanciful patterns, such as “carefree” shown on the bottom right. The ends of tenugui were left unseamed for practical purposes. Strips could be torn off and used as first-aid bandages or as replacement straps for sandals.
Nowadays, a vast selection of patterns, colors and designs can be found; tenugui are even framed as wall art. Yet their true value is proven when used practically, as an everyday item. Pleasing to the touch and colorfully designed, they’ll surely find a happy place in your home.
This is the third of a four-part series on ryo that focuses on traditional ways to mitigate the heat of a Japanese summer.