Survey of the activities of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi (bleached linen)
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gathers information about traditional craft techniques and it studies those techniques. Riyo KIKUCHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a survey of the activities of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi (Tsukigase is a village in Nara Prefecture).
The word “sarasu” (which is where –sarashi in Narazarashi comes from) originally meant “to bleach,” and bleached hemp or cotton cloth is called “sarashi.”
Narazarashi is fabric made from hemp. Narazarashi is a “speciality” of Nara that was mentioned in the Wakan Sansai Zue (1712) and Bankin Sugiwaibukur (1732). These descriptions noted that “the best hemp has to be from Nanto (lit. the Southern Capital and another name for Nara),” and gained a national reputation during that era. Other descriptions mentioned that hemp from Nara could be distinguished from hemp from other regions when it was procured as a raw material. These descriptions provide a glimpse into aspects of the division of labor at the time.
Techniques that have been handed down in an unbroken line since those times are being passed down by members of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi even today. The raw material to make Narazarashi is now hemp from the Iwashima region in Gunma Prefecture. A framework to obtain raw materials is also found in other regions such as Echigo, where a hemp fabric known as Echigo linen is made. Dyeing techniques are not simply several local techniques. These techniques are underpinned by a number of people; straying from the passing down of those techniques is inconceivable. Greater attention should also be paid to the materials and tools that are essential to the passing down of crafts.
This survey has spurred renewed consideration of the importance of community in preserving traditional techniques.