Tairyō-bata is the flag hoisted on a fishing boat upon a bountiful return. According to one theory, this type of flag was created around the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) when the system instating a head of fisherman’s group was established to manage fishing rights. The design is usually auspicious motifs relating to the sea. The bold design created using the tsutsugaki dyeing technique transmits the spirit of the fishermen. Today, tairyō-bata can also be seen adorning boats during festivals, or at celebratory events such as weddings and birth celebrations.
History of Tairyō-bata
Located in Yonago city in Tottori prefecture, Matsuda Somemono-ten (dye shop) was established in 1702 and boasts over 300 years of history. The shop produced indigo dye products up until the start of the Pacific War. It is said that the fourth or the fifth-generation master went to Kyoto for training and acquired the tsutsugaki technique there. During the Edo period there were several dyeing establishments in Yonago, but only Matsuda Somemono-ten has survived today. The shop has remained in the very spot it was first established in the Yonago Hondōri Shōtengai shopping arcade.
Fisherman's flag (2019-08-30) by Matsuda somemonotenTottori Prefectural Government
Making a design of Tairyo-bata, fisherman's flag (2020) by Nariki MatsudaTottori Prefectural Government
A tairyō-bata is created first by sketching over the fabric. Next, glutinous rice flour, rice bran, lime and other substances are mixed inside a piping bag made of tanned paper, before the paste is squeezed out along the sketched motifs. Known as tsutsugaki, this technique requires skilled hands to create the characters and outlines. Meanwhile, the paste is adequately mixed by skilled artisans according to the weather and humidity at the time of mixing.
The paste of tsutsugak dying, fisherman's flag (2020) by Nariki MatsudaTottori Prefectural Government
Once the tsutsugaki process is finished, brushes are used to dye the fabric. As the dye dries fast, vibrant dye colours must be evenly applied swiftly. The brushes are made from deer or wolf hair to provide desirable body and flexibility.
Vibrant dye colours, fisherman's flag (2020) by Nariki MatsudaTottori Prefectural Government
The paste applied during the tsutsugaki process is removed by soaking the fabric in water. The sections covered by the paste remain white and enhances the dyed motifs. For making a tairyō-bata sun-resistant and colour-fast dyes are used and each piece of fabric is hand washed.
Wash-off, fisherman's flag (2020) by Nariki MatsudaTottori Prefectural Government
After the paste has been washed off, the fabric is set to dry in the sun. To avoid wrinkling due to uneven drying, the fabric is stretched taut. Large fabrics take between approximately 20 to 30 minutes to dry, while small fabrics take about 15 minutes.
The flag is given a finish by sewing the edges. Large flags are made by sewing together several piece of dyed fabric. Each and every carefully made flag transmits the warm handmade touch not possible with machine production.
The appeal of Tairyō-bata
The vibrantly applied primary colours and the powerful design with motifs placed in the centre—such profound colour tones are not attainable by modern printing techniques. The sketch is drawn on the fabric freehand with a prepared design used as reference. This is possible thanks to the craftsmanship cultivated by the Matsuda Somemono-ten. The bold characters and design on every tairyō-bata are original and based on traditions passed down from generation to generation. With the tsutsugaki technique borders are not created; instead, vibrant gradations between dark and light colours are freely applied and blended out by the artisan.
Nariki Matsuda, 13th generation, began working as a dyeing artisan 24 years ago. Past designs created at Matsuda Somemono-ten included both Japanese and Western designs to satisfy customer demands. The shop receives orders from all around Japan. “I want to create dyed work as art next,” says Mr. Matsuda.
Fuji & Umi
Takayama Kengo, A-PROJECTS
English translation by:
Eddy Y.L. Chang
Text and Exhibition created by:
Aoyama Misa, Kyoto Women's University
Iida Natsuki, Kyoto Women's University
Takiguchi Tomoko, Kyoto Women's University
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
This exhibition is provided by:
Tottori Prefectural Govenment