Junpei Kanazashi, born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1959, has made his home in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, for over four decades. His wife, Hiroko, is a master of botanical dyeing and weaving, crafting every ingredient from the plants she raises herself.

My visit to the Kanazashis was filled with anticipation. Learning about their genuine organic lifestyle, I was eager to delve into their world.

Upon my arrival, I found Junpei deeply engaged in the art of washi paper making, while Hiroko diligently dyed scarves for her clients.

Their commitment to using locally sourced materials was something I knew of, yet witnessing their lifestyle first-hand was unparalleled. The diversity of their garden, filled with plum, indigo, tabu, kunugi, yusunoki, marigold, chestnut, various vegetables, cotton trees, and more, showcased their dedication to a self-sustaining life and minimal waste.

Hiroko's process, from washing and drying cotton, spinning it into yarn, and weaving the yarn into fabric, was a revelation. Her spinning, a fluid and rhythmic dance, evoked memories of my grandmother's own spinner. Hiroko modestly remarked that such skills were once commonplace, a natural way of life she aspires to maintain.

Their ethos extends beyond textiles; they cultivate an array of plants for consumption and product creation, including oils and waxes from which they craft candles for personal use.

Junpei and Hiroko's insights into the history of washi paper and the sustainable practices of ancient times were enlightening. Their use of kozo (mulberry tree inner bark) and incorporation of local natural materials like bamboo fibers, onion skins, and cedar wood fibers into their washi paper not only adds unique textures but breathes life into the tradition.

Carrying their handcrafted products is a joy, a testament to the endless possibilities of traditional craftsmanship. Our conversation could have easily filled a day, but my schedule demanded otherwise. Leaving their company was difficult, their home a sanctuary of creativity and tradition.

Junpei, now the chairman of a folk craft museum in Kumamoto, continues to champion the preservation of traditional arts and crafts, ensuring their legacy endures.

The factory's name, "hanaregumo," translates to "floating cloud" in Japanese, perfectly encapsulating their lifestyle ethos.

 

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