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Release | Fumiko Magota

Asahikawa Kondo Dyeing Studio: textiles hand-dyed with brushes by artisans

I visited “Kondo Dyeing Studio” in Asahikawa. They are a dying studio creating banners, flags, shop curtains, etc., by the traditional process called “brush drawing and hand dyeing”, unchanged from their establishment in Meiji Period. They also sell tenugui (Japanese hand towels), etc., at the studio!



The most difficult part of the process is “Norioki”, masking with glue

2 hours drive from Sapporo and 5 minutes from JR Asahikawa Station. 

“Kondo Dyeing Studio” is located along Ichijo Street in Asahikawa. They are a dyeing studio established in 1898 by the founder who produced indigo leaves and indigo dyeing in Tokushima. The studio creates various products according to customers orders, such as Hanten (Japanese short coat), flags, banners, Japanese shop curtains, aprons, etc.


The most notable point about their products is that they do not print the textiles. They use traditional crafting process called “brush drawing and hand dyeing”; they use brushes to dye textiles.

“With the traditional process, we can imbrue plenty of paints to textiles using brushes. The textile turns out bright, and the color looks beautiful on the backside as well.” Kosuke Kondo, the managing director of the studio, told me. 

There are basically five processes to complete dyeing. 

1. Rough sketch - draw characters and illustrations on textiles. In Kondo Dyeing Studio, the artisan who dedicates for rough sketch does this process for three generations. The artisan even draws lively thick fonts in Tairyo Flags freehand! 

2. Masking - in this process, artisans put glue where they want the color of textile to be as it is and protect from paints. They use glue made from glutinous rice. 

旭川の近藤染工場ののりおきの様子▲Putting glue on textiles. The place where glues on will leave the color of textiles as it is. 

旭川の近藤染工場の作業場▲Drying the glue.

3. brush drawing and hand dyeing - dye the textile with brushes after glue dry. 

旭川の近藤染工場の刷毛▲Brushes used for dyeing. They change the brushes depending on colors and drawings. 

4. Wash in water - wash in plenty of water after putting color-fixing agent.

5. Fabrication - sew the textiles after drawing to finish the product. 

They were doing masking of Tairyo flags when we visited. 

“This is the most difficult part of the whole process.” The studio manager Kiyoto Koyanagi told me. “The tips of characters and drawings do not turn out well, people cannot draw straight lines, or cannot put glue in the same thickness, etc. It takes about 10 years to become a fully skilled artisan.”


By the way, Tairyo flags are put on boats and ships during launching ceremonies when they are used for the first time. It used to work as a “sign” when they had a good catch, but it is now mainly used as a lucky item to wish safety and good catch. 

旭川の近藤染工場の大漁旗▲Tairyo flags (The photo is provided by Kondo Dyeing Studio)

“When we dye textiles, we put our feelings to every brush move we do.” Mr. Kondo says. I could feel the warmth of people from hand-drawn and hand-dyed Japanese style strokes. I felt if I was cheered up by those textiles 


Enrich your life with cute hand-dyed tenugui

Let me introduce some of the products such as Japanese tenugui they sell at the studio or online shops. 

The first products are related to zodiac of this year (which is dogs) . The cute prints are designed by design studios in Asahikawa. 


旭川の近藤染工場の手ぬぐい▲Tenugui can be used as tapestries. 

Those use motifs from “Asahikawa” are perfect for souvenirs of the memorial of your travel. 

旭川の近藤染工場の手ぬぐい▲The illustrator Michiko Abe, who lives in Asahikawa, did the drawing. 

I like cats better than dogs, so I got a cat print tenugui and “Karinpani”, which had beautiful rainbow gradation and light green color. 

The cat print tenugui is based on the eraser stamp creator from Asahikawa kotori’s work. When I hang it on the towel rail, it looks like a cat is sitting there. 

旭川の近藤染工場の猫の手ぬぐい▲Can you see a stamp I am holding in my left hand? This is the eraser stamp, which is the original of this tenugui’s design. 

On the other hand, the deputy manager Norihito Takayama designed “Karinpani”. This is one of the series which uses natures of Mt. Daisetsu. “I put the deep pink color of Ezo Yama Sakura and rings of a tree. I thought about how colors and prints will turn when it is tied, etc.”

旭川の近藤染工場のスタッフ▲Mr. Takayama

旭川の近藤染工場の手ぬぐい▲The color did not turn out well in the picture above, but it looks like this. I use it as a towel in my kitchen, and it makes my kitchen a lot brighter.

Those who are interested in hand-dyeing products but do not have relations to banners or Hanten can adapt these products to your life. When you visit Asashikawa, stop by this studio and find something to enrich your life! 

  • Asahikawa Kondo Dyeing Studio: textiles hand-dyed with brushes by artisans
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Fumiko Magota