Vol. 60 Boro “Textile Art”

These holidays, it was probably a little too late for this, The Obon, originally the name of the container in Japanese. These little (well some people are having a week) vacation has a special meaning behind it. It basically means days or considered to be a holidays where we welcome spirits and ancestors so that families are gathered together to appreciate out lives with their history that has build upon us. Welcoming our ancestor on 13th of August and send them back on the 16th. A lot of Japanese companies are shut down at these times so that people are able to take long holiday just to get back to their home as well as going to travel. These times can be described with unique traditional Japanese customs that will happen throughout Japan such as Mukae-bi (welcoming fires for the spirit of ancestors), Okuri-bi (guiding fire to send those spirit back to where they belong), Toro Nagashi (Floating lanterns if I’m right to translate), Traditional Japanese folk dance called Bon-odori. For those who happen to be in Japan right now might be able to take a look at these interesting customs near where you stay or you get to see some Japanese people wearing traditional clothing with a bright color and patterns called Yukata, I would say the lighter version of Kimono.
Myself on the other hand, I was fascinated by the product from prefecture called Aomori, these stories are what I found very interesting enough to share and there surely be nothing to do with Obon unfortunately but please have a look.


The Japanese word “Boro” means clothing or fabric that is worn-out, damaged, or tattered. This term is also referred to clothing that people from Aomori prefecture have been using for centuries with a numerous times of patching each fabric to create one piece of clothing, or rather I would say the art piece that is created by history, and love for the making. Ranging from underwear to bedding, tattered fabric put them together, scramble pieces sawn together to produce something that no one could be replicated without time spent.
Chuzaburo Tanaka, an ethnologist from Japan has a whole collection of Boro that has been collected throughout his lifetime. His statement at the exhibition says “At the moment when I encountered these Boro, I had no intention of calling it as a Boro, rather I was impressed by how these products are well-treated, care for each every little fabric to patch them together with wholeheartedly dedication to it. There is still someone who dedicate to utilize their resources as much as they could to appreciate in possessing minimum amount of things.”

Here are what I found at the exhibition.


Thick home-wear for a winter. Even cotton thread wadding was a rarity in the frozen northland of aomori, so this patched cotton rag tanzen is filled mostly with hemp cloth scrapes

Bed comforter
Used Around 1870’s~1920’s,  Surface was woven with rags, thick hemp threads as the warp, cotton threads torn from cloths as a weft. Lining was mended with layers of hemp work clothes. Work clothes were also used for inner batting instead of pricy cotton, attributing to weighing as heavy as 8 kilograms.

A family for five or six would all sleep together on a bodoko spread out over straw. As lice tended to proliferate on kimono fabric in winter, everyone slept naked under a donja. Skin was warmer anyway, so kids were happier sleeping in their parent’s arms.

Made from old fabric scraps stitched all over. People put working clothes on top of this. Buttons are attached around the cuffs for bugs not to get in through while working outside.

Field Shirts
A shirt made from rag looming with black cotton threads mixed in. Cotton was applied around cuffs and collar.

In these modern world, quilt or patchwork would be the appropriate word for these products. However, with their limited resources plus cotton was something that can hardly aquire from their region, people from there are almost forced to create these pieces just to protect themselves from coldness with that is left for them. The philosophy of sustainability and recycle are embedded in their lifestyle to make a statement for all of us that how these modern world are build upon materialistic principle.




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