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Shikoku is home to many talented craftspeople. Some of Shikoku’s most famous and enduring crafts include Awagami (Tokushima washi paper), Tobeyaki (Tobe’s distinctive blue pottery), and Iyo-Kasuri (hand-woven, blue patterned fabric).
The Iyo region is known as Ehime these days, but the tradition lives on in Matsuyama, where there’s still the opportunity to try your hand at designing and dyeing indigo fabric.
The craft hall (kaikan) is a little out of the way from the city centre, but is still just a short walk from Kinuyama station, on the city rail line from Matsuyama Shieki. The bonus of this location means it’s not overrun by tourists, which actually adds to the appeal. It’s a traditional, if slightly under-lit, building – presumably the lighting is to keep the vibrant colors of the fabric intact. The hall is peaceful inside and the staff are eager, attentive, and ready to help. As of March 2017, an English language guide is also available.
In the kaikan, there is a sweet little shop selling locally produced clothes and materials, and a small museum displaying historic indigo-dyed school uniforms, artwork, and the original looms. Fabric enthusiasts and historians will get a lot out of the gallery, but a layperson of any ability will really enjoy having a go in the workshop. The Iyo-Kasuri bandana dyeing experience only takes one hour from start to finish, plus extra drying time at home, and costs ￥2,000. The current instructor is a previous Ehime University graduate who fell in love with the craft and has emigrated from China. She will show you several techniques, and let you apply your own creative flair by folding and binding certain sections of the fabric.
The Iyo-Kasuri Kaikan makes for an interesting hour or two spent making a truly original souvenir to display proudly at home, using Japanese techniques that have been passed down for generations.