The streams of visitors prompted a demand for new styles and Arimatsu is now known for over a hundred tie-dye patterns. The popularity of Shibori from this region created a source of income and allowed the town to flourish. In return, the towns people have become devoted to the craft.
Every June the Arimatsu Shibori Festival is held to celebrate this unique heritage. Hundreds of people descend on the quiet street, awakening the sleeping spirit of the historic trade route. Visitors in traditional shibori yukata weave through the procession and shibori parasols bob over the crowd. Artisans line the road demonstrating age-old processes and baskets overflow with textiles for sale, including traditional Shibori Tenugi. Giant indigo flags mark the entrance, each hand dyed in different patterns.
The abundance of shibori on display is an incredible sight, especially when you realise each tiny white speck has been created by hand. In patterns containing thousands of white circles, each spot has been individually hooked, wrapped and tied by a Shibori master from Arimatsu.
Time, precision and dedication are essential to shibori and can be thought to differentiate the craft from other forms of tie dye. A length of cotton for yukata will take four to six months to create, by an artisan who has taken a minimum of three years to complete fundamental training. Many of the masters of the regions have been practising for over sixty years.
Despite the meticulous approach, the true beauty of shibori is in the imperfections. Once the cloth has been carefully tied and clamped something uncontrollable takes place in the dye vat. The unpredictable reactions between dye and cloth create variations that can’t be anticipated. In recent years traditional designs are often printed, but true Shibori will always hold the irregularities of the dye process and the human hand.