Kusaki-zome (plant dyes)
Kusaki-zome are fabrics dyed with plant juices extracted from flowers, leaves,
stems and roots. Lye and alum are used as mordants. The dyeing method of
kusaki-zome was practiced in Japan until around 1925. It has almost vanished
now, however, due to the introduction and the subsequent wide use of chemical
dyes from the West.
Kon-zome (dark blue dyeing) was the most widely used technique. The dyes
were extracted from the leaves of indigo. The darkly dyed fabrics are called
kon (dark blue), and the lightly dyed ones are called ai (indigo blue).
The most expensive dyes for crimson and red dyeing were extracted from the
roots of the madder plant. Dyes from safflower were the most common and
were excellent for dyeing. Safflower is still grown today. The most economic
red dye was the juice from the leaves of red shiso, which was originally used for
Japanese plum pickles.
For the extraction of yellow and green dyes, roots of turmeric, ripe seeds of
gardenia and bark of the amur cork tree made valuable ingredients. The
yellowed leaves of gingko trees were also used. The green leaves of ashibi(also
called asebi) and mizuguruma were commonly used to extract juice for green
The seed vessels of acorns of evergreen and Japanese oak trees were boiled
to extract the brown dyeing juice. In the general household, boiled juices of
bancha (Japanese coarse tea) were most widely applied as brown dyes.
Purple was the most difficult color to attain from plant dyes. The seeds of
hisakaki were mainly used.
These fabrics are housed at the Geihoku Folklore House (Photograph taken circa 1994)
Indigo was once grown extensively. Reaped plant leaves were fermented and made into aidama or indigo balls in summer on farms in the Geihoku region of Hiroshima Prefecture. These products were all sold to the dyers' shops.