Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to the kobo at last

My hotel is on the west side of the Imperial Palace and this morning dawned cold but sunny enough to show me the sunrise for the first time since I arrived. I have had my directions upside down since I arrived for some funny reason so it was a relief to get my inner navigator straightened out. The cherry blossoms are still in evidence because the weather haas been cool although the peak is probably past.The steady downpour all day Monday did not help, but it did not dampen my spirits much. I was just having too much fun!

The workshop where I spent the last three days is called Kuryama Kobo (kobo means workshop). It is owned by a Mr. Ohno, who worked his way up to succeed the founder. He has a daughter who works in the kobo and his son-in-law, Mr. Nishida is the senior dyer. There is some evidence of little grandsons so the family succession in the business may be assured. The place is located up a narrow valley on the outskirts of Kyoto, along a stream, with overhanging cherry trees. A pretty place certainly, but a necessary location for a dyer because they rinse their fabric in water pumped from the stream. Originally the streams and rivers of Kyoto were terribly polluted from the dyeing industry and laws required them to relocate. The property includes houses for both couples.

I was given complete freedom to explore and photograph as long as I did not ask so many questions of the workers that they lost time from their work. I understand the process so a lot of questions were not necessary. It was the details that interested me most. They were working primarily on orders for summer obi. Interestingly, and it took awhile to figure this out, they were only painting the details on those portions of the obi that would show on the front and the knot at the back. This was a cost cutting measure for the purchaser, since most of the obi is hidden inside anyway.

The young staff was pleasant, helpful and interested in making my stay productive. I shared a bento lunch with them in their lunchroom. Good lunch too, and only 400 yen (about $4.25), a steal.

I have now edited this post. The lobby computers unexpectedly shift into Japanese or even more inscrutably duplicate whole phrases. It times out with about 30 seconds notice so I was lucky to finish my sentence!

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