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The Kasuri of Japan

March 08 – April 17, 1965

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago is pleased to present the first American exhibiton devoted entirely to the kasuri of Japan. It was assembled from the collections of Mr. Hitoshi Fujimoto, of Osaka, Mr. Kumio Muraho, of Daisen, Mr. Jiro Saski, of Ashiya City, and Mr. Richard Hooker, of Chicago.

A new type of hand woven textiles entered the main islands of Japan during the late 18th century and quickly became one of the most commonly practiced folk arts of the 19th and 20th centuries. Using this technique, which in time was given the name "kasuri," the poor farmers of Japan could provide themselves with patterned textiles to repace the plain or striped cloth that had served them in the past.

The kasuri technique has long existed in Indonesia and Sumatra, where it was known as the "ikat" technique. Ikat consists of wrapping, before dying, those parts of the threads which were to carry the pattern.

The kasuri, with few exceptions, served two purposes. Strips of cloth, commonly about 13 inches long, were sewed together to make futon or bed coverings. For these, large designs were used. Cloth of small or medium-sized patterns was employed to make kimonos, the designs becoming progressively smaller with the greater age of the intended wearer.

Among the most popular designs were: tortoise, crane, and pinetree (each evoking fidelity), the god of wealth, Daikokeeten, and the magic hammer with which he could produce an infinity of gifts, wisteria (ideal womanhood), a purse (wealth), together with other symbols of good fortune such as the anchor, weight, key, sacred jewels, umbrella, castle, butterflies, and many others.

Only recently have a few appreciative persons in Japan turned to the systematic study and collection of kasuri. The effort comes late. Many of the magnificent kasuri of the Ryukyu Islands were destroyed during the war.

Text from the exhibition press release.


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