A Stunningly Beautiful Itajime Han Juban: Thick Cotton Twill
ca. late nineteenth century
22 1/2" x 17 1/2", 57 cm x 44.5 cm
Really beautiful, this is a indigo dyed cotton han juban or half under kimono which is dyed in the itajime or kyoukechi method using carved boards and pressure to create repeat patterns.
The cotton is a heavy twill that resembles a flannel; it was told to us that this kind of cotton--which was produced in the 19th century--is called mouka, but there is some debate about this. Still, we find examples of this heavy, twill cotton from the 19th century and very often it is dyed in the itajime or kyoukechi method. This cloth always gives a softness to the imprinted image.
This han juban has been used hard as can be seen by the many holes and the torn edges. Please note that the two side seams (under the arm holes) of the han juban are not stitched to form a properly finished garment; the two sides are open, and this said, the garment could be lifted from the front bottom hemp upward and laid flat.
The pattern is really fascinating--and those of you who study itajime dyeing will have insight into the dyeing method used on this piece. You will notice white, undyed spots throughout the whole of this garment. Upon closer inspection you will see that these white spots are in fact a kikko or hexagonal, tortoise shell pattern which was not "properly" resisty dyed so we do not see this pattern clearly. It appears splotchy.
Over this is, on the asagi or pale blue indigo ground, we see a really beautiful pattern of shochikubai or a traditional design motive, a combination of plum blossoms, bamboo and pine, a traditional motif which conveys fortitude in all forms: plum blossoms/courage; bamboo/ resilience; pine/ longevity and conjugal fidelity.
The softness and delicacy of this design is simply beautiful, as are the tones of blue and the light touch of the itajime dyer who gave to this cloth its beautiful, almost ethereal, dyed pattern.