At a time when there were no synthetic fibers, Japanese clothing was made from plant fibers like cotton, silk and hemp. The Japanese started using animal fibers like wool when clothing styles were changing from Japanese traditional kimonos to Western dress, during the Meiji era.
Among plant fibers, hemp was the most common traditional fiber in old Japan. It is interesting to discover a little of the history of hemp in Japan.
Because hemp is cool in summer and warm in winter, it was a useful fiber in old Japan. People lived in houses whose walls and ceilings contained hemp stems. Floors inside homes were covered by tatami mats, whose warp was made from hemp yarn. People also wore sandals, kimono or fundoshi (loincloths), all of which were made from hemp.
The Japanese kimono is one-size-fits-all. So it was passed on from one generation to the next, for a total of three consecutive generations. By the end of the third generation's usage, a hemp kimono was worn out. Then, the worn out kimono was unstitched and used for dust cloths or cleaning rags. The dust cloth, in turn, becomes tattered after many years. Then it was shredded, boiled and made into paper. Hemp paper was used for writing letters, as well as for shoji (the translucent paper used to cover sliding doors) and fusuma (a thicker, less translucent paper for doors).
The story of hemp continues. When a paper sliding door was torn, it was shredded and recycled into paper again. The recycled paper was used for practicing calligraphy. This practice paper was darkened by the ink. However, it was then washed and flattened many times to make recycled paper, until the recycled paper became too dark to use any more. Then it was finally used as toilet paper.
Why was hemp so widely used by the Japanese? It is because of its characteristics. It grows quickly, even on wasteland, because the plant is so fertile. The strength of hemp enabled it to be used for a variety of things. Its ability to be recycled meant it could be used for many generations. This suited the Japanese habit of taking good care of things, as well as their "mottainai" spirit - a sense of regret about waste.
Today, there is a Japanese lady who has a strong passion for the fabric she uses. She is Chiaki Boshi, the clothing maker of the Sa-Rah brand. She uses natural fibers - mainly linen. Chiaki thinks that clothing should not just be bought and then forgotten. Instead, our relationship with a garment grows and evolves throughout its life. It will be a pleasurable experience to continue to wear your garments.
Linen is a very strong fabric. It is said to become more beautiful the longer you use it. Hemp becomes most beautiful after ten years of usage.
Have a look at our collection of Sa-Rah garments