Ainu decorative needlework is associated with the indigenous people of northern Japan and parts of northeastern Russia (Sakhalin and Kuril Islands). By the twenty-first century the Japanese Ainu were mainly concentrated in the Hokkaido region. Ainu traditional ceremonial clothing included ramie robes (attush) and wide headbands (matanpusi), which were woven and then elaborately decorated by the women with appliqué and embroidery.
The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin houses a bast fibre tunic from among the Ainu in Hokkaido, Japan. It dates to the second half of the nineteenth century, or earlier, and was acquired by Max August Scipio von Brandt (1835-1920). The fabric is made of the bast of the Atsui tree. The tunic measures 123 x 115.6 cm. The embroidery is worked with cotton.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin online catalogue (retrieved 4 December 2016).
The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin holds a drawing of an embroidered, Japanese bast fibre tunic. The drawing was collected by Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). It shows the type of tunic, worn by the Ainu, discussed elsewhere in TRC Needles. The German physician Von Siebold worked for the Dutch government at Deshima between 1823 and 1829, and settled in Leiden, The Netherlands, upon his return from Asia.
Temari ('hand ball') balls form part of Japanese folk art. They seem to have originated in China and to have been introduced around the seventh century AD in Japan. They were originally made of strips of cloth, but over time they became more and more ornate, with decorative stitching replacing more functional stitching. In due course, temari showed the most intricate embroidery.
Furoshiki (風呂敷) represent a form of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. They may be made of various materials, including silk, cotton, or synthetics. They may be decorated with printed designs or embroidery. They vary in size from that of a handkerchief to that of a large bed-spread. Their popularity in modern Japan decreased after the Second World War, but recent initiatives try to revitalise this old tradition.
Higashi kogin is a form of kogin zashi (itself a form of pattern darning) from Japan. Kogin literally means 'small cloth' and zashi means 'stitches'. It is one of the sashiko forms, and was developed by the farmers of the Tsugaru region in the northern part of Honshu Island, and in particular from east of the Iwaki river.
The tradition of making embroidered paintings developed in Japan in the nineteenth century. The representations made by famous painter/artists, such as Kishi Kikudō (1826-1897), Imao Keinen (1845-1924), and Takeuchi Seihō (1864-1942), were turned into embroideries, using the embroidery skills developed since the Edo period.
Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu) is characterised by its use of silk and metal threads (passing) to embroider intricate patterns on delicate silk fabrics. Embroidery in Japan is generally carried out irrespective of the ground material itself (free-style embroidery). Embroidery is being used on kimono and many other garments and textiles, including the fukusa (coverings), wall hangings and bedspreads.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, houses a small fragment of a kimono that dates to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries. It is made of monochrome figured satin silk (rinzu) with applied gold leaf decoration (surihaku, tie-dyeing (kanoko shibori) and embroidery with silk and metal threads. The fragment measures 58.5 x 30 cm.