Indigo and traditional aizome dyeing techniques have been around in Japan for centuries. Case in point: some places on this list have had their starter mash bubbling for a good 130 years or more. The all-natural dye can be found on anything from denim to dresses and handkerchiefs to hammocks – and even better, some places let you make your own for that really blue touch. Here are our favourite places in Tokyo to get yourself fully clothed in the blues.
Where to get the blues
Ever wondered how indigo-dyed items are made? Learn more about aizome (indigo dyeing) at Kosoen Studio, a serene spot situated way out west in the city of Ome, an hour and a half by train from central Tokyo. Surrounded by lush mountains and clean air, Kosoen has been developing and dyeing with aizome since the early 1900s.
The Murata family that runs the company has been in the textile business for over a century, but two of the Murata brothers decided to open Kosoen Studio in 1989 to continue the craft of natural indigo dyeing, colouring everything from garments to interior decor. The studio offers a dyeing experience for those interested in trying out aizome (from ¥1,600), as well as an adjoining store selling clothing and accessories that the Muratas have designed and dyed themselves.
Located in the historic neighbourhood of Sumida, known for its abundance of handicraft artisans, this aizome museum, studio and shop holds a lot of history behind Japanese blues. The studio has been turning out aizome products for over 120 years, through three generations, and also happens to be one of the few studios in the world that indigo-dyes summer yukata.
The massive vats of dye glistening inside the studio have not been changed since the shop’s inception, making their dye truly unique as it has been fermented for so many years. The small showroom space next to the studio features a stunning yukata robe in an intricate pattern, as well as obi belts and other detailed fabrics. Aizome Hakubutsukan also offers tenugui aizome classes where you can dye your own cloth (from ¥1,500), but you’ll need to call in advance to book a spot.
Down the ritzy roads of Daikanyama, Okura is home to a beautiful selection of clothing and textiles incorporating traditional Japanese tailoring techniques, designs and aizome dyeing. The store is housed inside a building that evokes a traditional feel throughout. Browse through their wide range of indigo-dyed items including everything from T-shirts, denim, jackets and sweaters to accessories including ties, socks and handkerchiefs. Head on up to the second floor for Okura’s range of womenswear, which includes kimono-motif shirts, tabi socks, purses, pins and other intricately made items.
Tucked down a quaint street in Asakusa, Wanariya is one of the few aizome shops in the city where you can shop for beautifully indigo-dyed garments and a plethora of accessories including hats, bags and scarves. Did you know that there are 48 different shades of indigo? The shop does a great job at offering a wide array of those, with products ranging from the lightest of blues to deep dark indigo hues.
For those who want to try dyeing something themselves, the shop organises walk-in classes where you can try colouring a handkerchief or Japanese tenugui hand towel for only ¥1,920. The entire aizome process takes about 30 minutes, making it the perfect activity to add to your day in Asakusa. They also have a separate studio (1-8-10 Senzoku, Taito-ku), where you'll be able to dye T-shirts, bags and more (reservation only).