Refreshing indigo and white, the favorite cotton summer garment (yukata) of the Edoites.

Yukata Synonym
Nagaita chūgata refers to a dye technique using stenciled paste resist to produce white patterns against an indigo-dyed background. Since the majority were dyed on cotton used for making yukata, the two terms have become synonymous. The process known as stenciling (katazuke) whereby paste is applied through cut stencils employs a single board of Japanese fir wood about 6.5 meters long known as a “long board” (nagaita) for dyeing the continuous patterns classified as “large” (ōgata), “small” (komon) and “medium” (chūgata). Since the last were dyed in the city of Edo, they also went by the name “Edo chūgata,” but in 1955 after Sadakichi Matsubara and Kotaro Shimizu were designated Living National Treasures for the preservation of nagaita chūgata, that has become the accepted term.
Nagaita chūgata: stenciling both sides of the cloth
The design here shows chrysanthemum flowers swirling in eddies of flowing water. The large-scale pattern typifies yukata designs. Details on the dyeing technique will be explained later, but for nagaita chūgata paste is applied through the stencil matching up the design on both sides of the cloth. In this way, the dye cannot penetrate the areas of the cloth caught between the paste layers, resulting in the white standing out clearly against the dyed area. In the Edo period after the spread of cotton cultivation and also the rise of public baths in the cities, nagaita chūgata yukata became common as bathrobes, as relaxed summer wear, and as festival raiment. The chic designs with their large pictorial motifs dyed in white and blue were the great love of the Edo dandies.
Nagaita Chūgata: Uragawari
This fabric was resist-dyed on both sides, but with different patterns on each side. Here the front is dyed with a wisteria pattern and the back with hail in a skillful design piece reflecting Edo-style refinement. 
Indigo Dyer’s work
The production of nagaita chūgata involves a series of processes: a paper stencil is placed on white fabric, resist paste is applied to the cloth through the stencil holes with a spatula, the stenciled fabric is immersed in a dye vat made from special Awa-prefecture fermented natural indigo. During the Edo period, every area had indigo dyehouses (konya) for dyeing threads and fabric. Nagaita chūgata, on the other hand, was centered in Edo and done at indigo dyehouses specializing in fabric dyeing. As is evident from the name Kanda Konya-cho, the Kanda district of Edo was known particularly for its yukata dyeing production. 
Before and After Dyeing
On the right is the cloth with the paste before dyeing and on the left is the dyed cloth with the paste washed off. Japanese stencil dyeing techniques developed with the production of fine rice paste, high quality steel carving tools, and sturdy Japanese paper used for stencil paper.
Preparation for Dyeing 1
The stencil paper (katagami) used for stencil dyeing is the same as is used even now by the artisans in Shiroko and Jike villages of Ise area to make Ise katagami. This specially prepared stencil paper is made from handmade Japanese washi paper treated with fermented persimmon tannin (kakishibu) to make it water resistant. It has been carved using “piercing cut” (tsukibori) technique with a pattern of cranes and waves. The stencil paper is soaked in water over night to allow it to expand and lie flat on the cloth. Any remaining water on the surface of the stencil will dilute the paste, so it is carefully wiped away.
Preparation for Dyeing 2
Paste preparation is the key that distinguishes good and bad nagaita chūgata. As of old, the paste is a mixture of sugar, lime (calcium carbonate), and glutinous rice, its density and stickiness being adjusted to the stencil image and weather conditions based on long experience. These natural materials cannot be pre-mixed and stored for long periods. Just enough is made for a single piece, and fully used up each time. The red pigment (which does not dye the cloth) is indispensible as a guideline when matching the placement of the stencil on the reverse of the fabric.
Stenciling
Paste is spread over the stencil paper placed on the fabric, which has been stretched out  flat on a long nagaita board. Using a spatula with pointed edge (deba bera) the stenciling involves carefully spreading the paste evenly over entire stencil paper. The fabric in the lower right section of the photo has already been pasted. The artisan advances along the cloth matching the stencil edges to make a continuous pattern. 
Applying Paste to Both Sides of the Fabric
After applying the red-tinted paste to one side of the cloth, it is turned over; guided by the red lines that show through to the back, the reversed stencil is laid on the cloth so the pattern lines match exactly. Since there is no need to tint the paste applied to the back, it is left uncolored. Perfectly matching the delicate design requires concentration. After pasting and drying, the cloth is immersed in soy bean liquid so as to enhance the absorption of the indigo.
Indigo Dyeing: Preparation and Soaking the Cloth in Water 
Before dyeing it in indigo, the pasted cloth is soaked in water (mizushimi or mizujimi). This enhances the absorption, as well as adding weight to the fabric so that is sinks into the indigo vat more smoothly. 
Indigo Dye
When the fabric is soaking in the indigo vat, it is spread out along the pole leaving some space between the pasted surfaces so they do not cling to one another. As indigo needs to oxidize to bring out the color, the dyed cloth is raised out of the vat for a few minutes to expose it to the air and then re-immersed. For cotton, this is repeated about 4 times. After this, the cloth is soaked in water overnight, so that the paste absorbs water, thus softening, and can be rinsed off to finish the process.
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported by:
Matsubara Nobuo

Text by:
Tanaka Atsuko

Photo by:
Ishii Mayumi

English translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

English edited by:
Melissa rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Exhibition created by:
Nakatani Nagisa, Kyoto Women's University
Ueyama Emiko, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directers:
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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