A Yuzen Dye Artisan Who Keeps Learning

Mr.Mizuguchi Yoshiharu, Yuzen dye artisan

学び続ける手捺染職人 友禅染職人 水口義治

Work at Pagong

ーNice to meet you. First, please tell me the reason why you chose this job.

Nice to meet you too. I started this job when I was twenty-two years old. At that time, I followed many traditional dyeing methods. I dyed kimono with long sleeves, too. However, traditional methods gradually became unpopular, and our company started to use a new dyeing method called “tenassen.” In tenassen method, we use one mould to one colour. We place a mould on a frame and pour dye on it. We use a large pallet called “scage” to dye. I have worked for about 37 years.

ーThen, what kind of work you do in this workshop?

What we mostly do is to dye Western clothes using “tenassen” method. The width of kimono is about 35cm. However, that of Western clothes is about 112cm, three times as long as kimono.
In addition, the required time to dye always differ depending on the number of mould we use. If we use just two or three moulds, we can finish dyeing in one hour. On the other hand, some designs require half a day. More mould we use, more colourful clothes will be.

After dyeing, we use steam to fix dyed colours to clothing materials. Naturally, our workshop will be extremely hot in the summer because of the steam. It will be almost fifty degrees centigrade. We are already used to it, but I don’t think usual people can stand the heat even for 30 minutes.

ーI didn’t know it will be that hot. But I’ve heard that you give people the opportunity to enter your workshop.

We hold an activity called “One-day Experience at Pagong.” Participants can choose their own colour to dye, and they will make their original cut-and-sewn shirt. In this project, people enter our workshop and experience dyeing using moulds.

Through the experience, they understand our hardship especially when they make mistakes. Many people say “No wander the dyeing products are expensive.”

Many people say “No wander the dyeing products are expensive.”

Experience and Joy as a Craftsman

ーWhen do you get tense while you are working?

I would be under extreme tense when I choose colours. For example, cherry blossom pattern needs 23 different colours. We can’t dye leaves in pink, of course. I always read instruction sheets for colours.

Another important moment is to choose the right scage (pallet). We use different scages for different patterns. There are several types of scages, such as sharp, round, hard, and soft in the tip. A sharp scage can scrape paste on materials. A round scage is useful when we paste glue. We must choose the right scage for each pattern. We trust our own intuition when we choose scages. Our experience enables us to choose the right one.

Also, it is important to adjust the level of hand pressure. The pressure of both hands should be equal. Otherwise, we can dye evenly. I make a lot of mistakes, of course. I sweat when I make a mistake.

ーI see. When would you savour the joy of your job?

The best moment for me is when I find people wearing my dyed clothes. In Tokyo, I once found a girl who wears a shirt I dyed. I was very impressed to see that.
I dyed a lot of patterns until I started this company, but I didn’t remember what kind of pattern I dyed. I didn’t know where these shirts are sold neither.
At this company, however, we do both making and selling. So we can directly see customers choosing and wearing our products. It is the joy for me. Actually, all Pagong’s products sold around Japan are dyed only in this workshop.

all Pagong’s products sold around Japan are dyed only in this workshop.

Study Permanently

ーWill you continue this job from now on, too?

I will. I know this is a tough job, but I want to continue it until I get old. Although it isn’t an easy job, it is very worth doing at the same time.
My senior colleague once said to me “In the dye industry, we must keep studying till we die.” We learn from seniors when we are beginners, and gradually add our own experience into basic skills. There are always things to learn every day.

At Pagong, we dye various materials, such as T-shirts and smooth fabrics. We change materials to dye quite often. It means that we need to change scages at the same time. Therefore, we have unlimited things to study.

ーPlease express your eagerness to the future.

My motto to the future is “study permanently.” We can’t continue the same thing. As material changes, we must change the way of dyeing as well. Also, we have to dye not passionately, but calmly, in order not to make mistakes. During my work, I sometimes can dye as I wished, and sometimes I cannot. I would like to accumulate the experience of success.
There is no end, so I want to do my best with an adaptable way of thinking.


【Artisan’s Profile】

Mr. Mizuguchi started dyeing when he was 22 years old, and has worked for 36 years.
He joined Kamedatomi Co., Ltd (Pagong) as a tenassen artisan in 2004.

So far, he has dyed various kinds of fabrics, such as kogin, bonchi-patterned,
yotsume, nakasode, ties, ladies wears.

【about company】

Kamedatomi Co., Ltd (main store of Pagong)

Kamedatomi (Pagong) was founded in the 8th year of the Taisho era (1919) by Kameda Tomitaro the First.
At first, they were working at a four-tatami room.

Although they used to dye tens of thousands of fabrics during the era of economic growth
after the World War II, people’s clothes gradually moved from Japanese style to Western clothes,
along with the change of their life style.

Considering that situation, Kameda Kazuaki the Third who felt a sense of danger about the continued
existance of Kyo-yuzen, started to dye aloha shirts and cut-and-sewn in yuzen pattern.

That was the beginning of Pagong brand. Making good use of traditional technique, Pagong creates items which are completely made in Japan. They express beauty, brilliance, and power of Japanese design through their items which fuse tradition and modern sensibility.

【Company Information】

Kamedatomi Co., Ltd (main store of Pagong)

Postcode: 615-0046
Phone number: 075-322-2391
Fax number: 075-322-2459
Business Hours: 11:00 ~ 18:00 (Holidays aren’t fixed.)
Pagong official website

about the writer

editing:Mana Nishino
photography:Hitoshi Tayasu



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