Yuzen Nagashi (Washing Kimono Silks in the River)

In Kyoto city, surrounded by mountain ranges from three directions, run many beautiful rivers from the north to the south. In old times, people utilized the clear stream of the river from the mountain for a dye art technique called Yuzan Nagashi (友禅流し), or washing kimono silks in the river to remove the paste resist and excess dye in the process of hand drawing on silk. The Kamo river was once famous for this traditional practice.

Other than the Kamo river, Yuzen Nagashi was conducted in many rivers in Kyoto, Such as the Katsuragawa (桂川), the Horikawa (堀川), the Shiakawa (白川), and the Kamiyagawa (紙屋川). However, today, the traditional scenery of Yuzen Nagashi can be seen only at the time of festival events, since the process had begun to be considered as a source of water pollution.

Yuzen Nagashi reminds me of a movie called "Yoru no Kawa (The Night River)", which describes the world of old Kyozome (京染め, dyed Kimono silks), with the stories of Kyozome stores once stood in a row along the east side of Horikawa river.

When I was a Maiko (舞妓) trainee, I often came across washers in the river on the way back from my Maiko lessons. Holding bamboo poles wrapped with colorful fabrics in their hands, their consistent movement of washing in the river, made me realized what it is like to be a professional. I felt their faith in dye art, and felt myself a new as well.

Click here to see a Blog by a Former Maiko "Do You Know?"

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