JR Kyoto Isetan’s highly recommended item: JAPAN #1 “Rien-zome Tenugui”


Located at Kyoto Station, “JR Kyoto Isetan” is a department store that was established by popular fashion store “Isetan” located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and the railroad corporation “West Japan Railway Company.” It is a store with a myriad of Kyoto’s great food and craftsmanship, and Isetan’s great selection of fashion goods. Definitely a place to go shopping when you visit Kyoto. Here, we introduce you to “Rien-zome” Tenugui (traditional Japanese towel) made by “Toda-ya Shoten,” established 145 years ago.

JR Kyoto Isetan’s highly recommended item: JAPAN  #1 “Rien-zome Tenugui”
upper left: “Bushu Tamagawa” 1,944 yen (tax included)
lower left: “Koshu Kajikazawa” 1,944 yen (tax included)
right: “Machiwabite” 1,944 yen (tax included)

”Tenugui” was both a practical item and a gift

Popular as a souvenir among travelers to Japan, tenugi is one of Japan’s unique artifacts. It is said that tenugui developed during the 17th century, the early Edo period. Growing cotton had become widespread, and cotton became easily available for the masses. It results in the production of cotton kimonos, and tenugui were made from the leftover kimono fabric. Tenugui were used to wipe sweat, and were used in public baths. The tenugui of today are still raw-cut on the sides in order to prevent collecting dust and to dry faster, keeping them clean.

”Tenugui” was both a practical item and a gift “Kagamijishi (Kikugoro)” 1,620 yen (tax included)

Dyeing technique creates patterns of vivid colors

The rich patterns of tenugui helped develop the skills of dyeing. Among those skills, Honzome (Chusen), which was invented during the Meiji period, created rich hues and bold patterns. This Honzome allows various colors to be dyed at once, and the result is a crisp coloring, both front and back. It is designated as Japan’s traditional craft. The tenugui we will introduce you to were dyed one by one by skilled craftsmen using this Honzome technique. From manually engraving the pattern paper to undergoing complicated dyeing processes to finishing up by cutting with scissors, almost everything is still done by hand in the downtown area of Tokyo. The beautiful colors and texture can never be created in mass production. The name “Rien” comes from the fact that Rien-zome products are still loved by the people of Rien, another name for the world of Kabuki and Japanese dancing.

Dyeing technique creates patterns of vivid colors
“Ichikawa Komazo,” from an ukiyoe of a Kabuki actor drawn by Sharaku 1,620 yen (tax included)

Dyeing technique creates patterns of vivid colors2
One of Kabuki Juhachiban (18 great plays), “Sukeroku” (sakura) 1,944 yen (tax included)

Dyeing technique creates patterns of vivid colors3 From Utagawa Hiroshige’s masterpiece, “Tokaido Gojusantsugi, Nihonbashi” (53 Stations of the Tokaido, Nihonbashi) 1,944 yen (tax included)

Rien-zome is rich in variation, uniting tradition and innovation

The variation of Rien-zome tenugui still grows, as craftsmen not only passes down traditional patterns, but create new colors, while on the other hand, make contemporary designs using traditional techniques. You can use the tenugui as a handkerchief, wrapping cloth for souvenirs, hair accessory, hat, and if you like the pattern, spread it out to use it as tapestry. If you are looking for a casual, yet authentic souvenir, Rien-zome tenugui is the perfect item for you.

“Rien-zome tenugui”
●JR Kyoto Isetan 9th floor
●Rien-zome tenugui (100% cotton)

*The above information was last updated on April 27, 2017. For further details, please contact the facilities directly.

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