In March 2020 I arrived to Japan for a semester abroad. Unfortunately, due to COVID this was cancelled.

Since it was one of my biggest dreams to come to Japan, it was no choice for me to give up and go home. Lucky enough, during such a unlucky year for many other, I got to know Kyoko Wainai, a Japanese textile designer who warm welcomed me to her freshly started community project at the country side of Northern Japan, Akita.

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© Takugo Miwa

Akita is known for it's production of high quality rice and sake. Because of the climate: much rain in summer and lot's of snow in winter, rice grows under the perfect circumstances.

Rice farmers are busy during summer, and spend more time inside during the cold winter.

With a long history, Japan still uses rice straw as a material to make products. From religious decorations for shrines, to everyday objects like slippers and cat baskets.

By living between the ricefields, I was lucky to get to know the straw craft community of the town misato.

The community showed me their wonderful museum about the history of straw craft & objects, and learned me traditional techniques to make rope, slippers and brushes. They took me with them when they visited primary schools to get the next generation involved in making straw craft.

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© Takugo Miwa

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Slippers / brushes made by me

Together we looked at new approaches to work with rice straw. During my travelling through Japan I got to know a lot about traditional textiles, how they were made with the focus on dyeing. I was amazed that such a variety of colours can be achieved with often natural ingredients.

From this inspiration, I started doing dyeing experiments with rice straw. 

With self made yamagobo- (mountain berry), yomogi- (mugwort) and ai- (indigo) dyes I coloured straw in different shades and intensities. Since the straw community never worked with coloured straw, it was exciting and new for both of us.

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© Takugo Miwa

© Takugo Miwa