Welcome back! This is the second post in a series of three about aizome, indigo dyeing. If you missed the first part about the process of making the dye, check out the post here. This post is about the aizome museum that’s about 30 minutes from my house.
The museum is called Ai No Yakata (藍の館) and it’s located in the town of Aizumi, Tokushima.
Connection? I thought so, and I asked the locals about it (Thanks Jen!). Mukashi mukashi (a long, long time ago) there were two towns in the area called Aizono and Sumiyoshi. Aizono was the home of indigo dyeing. When they combined the towns, they took the ai (藍) from Aizono and the sumi (or zumi 住) from Sumiyoshi and put them together to get Aizumi (藍住 translates to “the place of indigo.” The first kanji means “indigo” and the second kanji means “to reside”)
The museum itself has several different areas.
First, there is a modern museum that houses the admission area, the gift shop, and different textiles dyed with aizome.
I apologize for the all the glare from the camera flash by the way, Taking photos was difficult.
Second, there is a lovely, traditional Japanese house on the property. This house was the home of the Okamura family and it was built in 1808. The Okamura family was one of the original ai-shi (sukumo or indigo dye makers) and dyers. The business originally started in the late 1600’s and focused on making the dye only. However, in the early 1800’s, the sixth generation of the family decided to expand the business. He set up subsidiaries in other parts of Japan, but kept the headquarters in Aizumi. He also expanded the business to include brewing sake. In the Meiji era, the company also expanded to Tokyo, however this expansion coincided with the introduction of cheap chemical dyes to Japan and resulted in a decline in business. Finally, in 1989, the buildings and property were donated as a museum.
The family home is not the only original building on the property. There are three other original buildings that were used for creating the sukumo (indigo dye). They still have their uneven, packed dirt floors, and you can really feel the history behind them. Nowadays, they are used for exhibits. One houses small dioramas outlining the process of aizome from planting the indigo, to dyeing the cloth. One houses some of the old tools used in the process and has some sumuko that you can examine. Finally, there is a building that is rented out the local artisans to sell their wares. When I was there, there was a woodcarver who had set up shop. He even had some pieces that had been dyed with indigo, including a table!
The last building on the property is more modern. It’s a facility where people can do their own aizome dyeing. For more on that, check out the last post in this series, here.
Ai No Yakata’s Japanese only website can be found at
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