Again, thanks to the generosity of friends who were willing to go on an adventure in the countryside, we were able to go to the tiny village of Nantoshi, about an hour and a half drive from Kyoto, where there is a place called the Little Indigo Museum. Shindo Hirayuki and his wife own it, and there they have a little studio where they dye with indigo (using indigo grown in the Kobe area) using all natural ingredients. They moved to Nantoshi forty years ago, which at the time was barely populated but retained some of the old 茅葺き屋根, (kayabukiyane, thatched roof houses). The government is helping to preserve these historic structures by subsidizing their maintenance. It is a lovely village to visit, with or without the museum.
a farmer going about her daily chores…
The Shindos work as a team; he designs and dyes, (his son does most of the dyeing now as Mr Shindo is quite elderly) and Mrs. Shindo makes a few different styles of bags and pouches with the material. Mr. Shindo also makes some beautiful art pieces and has shown internationally. They are a lovely couple, all too happy to share information and show us around. Upstairs they have a small museum of indigo textiles from Japan and beyond
They have four active indigo vats going right now, but a capacity for 16 (there are more pots under the floor to the right). The large pots they use for dyeing are ceramic, made in Japan.
some of Mr Shindo’s personal work:
and a few pieces from the museum:
a back brace for hauling kindling:
detail of a shibori (tie-dye) kimono:
a partially untied arashi shibori piece:
After touring the little museum (it is quite little) and spending time with Mr Shindo in his studio, we chatted in their little shop. Richard had already selected a little pouch he wanted to buy and had wandered off somewhere, but I was having fun chatting with them (fortunately some more Japanese keeps bubbling to the surface of my brain the longer I am here) so I didn’t get to looking at their items for sale for quite a while. When I finally did, I chose a little bag and took it to them, and it turned out Richard had selected the exact same pattern. We all looked at the two pieces and I told them we had been together for 42 years – they understood and we had a good laugh together. They told me yesterday was their 45th anniversary, and I mentioned that ours is tomorrow. Mrs. Shindo said Richard should take me out for a big dinner. When I asked if Mr Shindo had taken her for a big dinner last night (mind you they are the only act in town for about 90 miles) she laughed and said no. But he swiftly brought out his alto recorder and said that he played the flute for her and she played the shamisen, and they had a little concert and gathering with a small circle of friends to celebrate the event. So sweet!