Ginza’s Willow Dye
The willow trees lining the streets of Ginza have watched over the town’s history from the Meiji period all the way through the Taisho, Showa and Heisei periods (from 1877 to the present time). ‘Ginza’s willow dye’ began in 1993 through a desire to express the lives of the willow trees using dyes made from their trimmed leaves. This was back when Ginza Motoji was still located in Ginza 1-Chome along Yanagi Dori street.
Mr. Motoji, the owner, was engaged with natural dyes from different parts of the country when one day he wondered if dyes could be made from the willows in Ginza. He heard that the trees were trimmed every year and their leaves disposed by the Chuo-ku personnel, so ever since, he has asked to receive some of the trimmings.
He then sends the Ginza willows to artists he trusts across the country to dye fabrics with them. Natural dyes produce various colours depending on the growth of the tree, the season they were cut and by using different mordants. So every year, they come back dyed in a diverse range of colours.
About the ‘Extracurricular Lessons on Ginza’s Willow Dyes’
Since 1998, ‘Extracurricular Lessons on Ginza’s Willow Dyes’ are held for fifth grade students at Ginza’s sole elementary, the Taimei Elementary School of Chuo Ward.
The story began in 1996. At the time, Mr. Motoji’s son and successor, Mr. Keita Motoji was an elementary school student and he asked, ‘What are kimonos made from?’ After hearing this, Mr. Motoji left the shop for two weeks to hold a ‘Ginza Silkworm Breeding Exhibition’. Students from the Taimei Elementary School also came to view the exhibition, and from there, ideas for the ‘Extracurricular Lessons on Ginza’s Willow Dyes’ began. It started as an activity to spread the fun of the dyeing culture and craft-making traditions, and to convey how kimonos are given life as they are created. Now, it has accrued a history of over 20 years thanks to everyone’s support and cooperation.