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‘Nishiki’ could be Japan’s ‘Silk Route’ to India: Weaver

Warping machine to produce Nishiki cloth

New Delhi : A fourth generation weaver from Japan, skilled in the rare art of ‘Nishiki’ silk weaving in that country, has visited the north Indian city of Varanasi, home to the famed Banarsi silk, in an endeavour to keep alive the centuries old tradition.

Master Amane Tatsumura, the brocade master from Kyoto whose family has kept alive the highest form of silk weaving through relentless endeavour and research to restore its rich legacy says he is quite excited on his trip to Varanasi, considered a haven for silk weavers.

“The spectator is stunned by the three-dimensional effect that a Nishiki fabric gives as it is woven in layers, accomplished only after a blueprint is realised through highly skilled and specialised craftsmen”, says Tatsumura.

The weaver was here as part of a special programme organised by the Japanese Embassy to promote trade and cultural relations between the two countries.

The 11th century Indian city which is also Prime Minister Modi’s electoral constituency is renowned for its Banarasi Saris and fine silk. Last year when the Japanese premier Shinzo Abe visited India, the cultural exchange between the two countries emerged as a mutual concern.

Japanese people hold an immense sense of pride in their hearts for the ancient tradition of silk weaving, which is known all over the world for its excellence.

Nishiki is woven on takabata looms since they were introduced from China over 1200 years ago. The rich silk fabric is exquisite, luminous, luxurious and multi-colored. The high precision and skill level required in weaving this fabric and the resulting extraordinary beauty and quality demands that it be distinguished from ordinary brocade by giving it a distinctive name, Nishiki.

In Japanese language, the idiographic character used for Nishiki is combination of the symbol for gold, implying that the value of Nishiki is equal to that of money. This unique brocade is created through the combined skills of numerous craftsmen, involving a broad range of technical processes that require time and patience.

To secure the future path of Nishiki, an initiative was taken by Koho to establish the “Japan Traditional Weaving Preservation Research Society”. Koho stands for combination of a weaving studio and research work to prevent the death of this unique art form.

Tatsumura Heizo, the first generation artist performed the restoration of 70 ancient textile fragments from Horyuji Temple and the Soshoin (National Antiquities Museum of Japan), including the National Treasure, “Nishiki with Lion Hunting.”

Besides this, Heizo conceived numerous weaving techniques and held nearly 30 utility model patents. This typical piece of work passes through the hands of 70 different craftsmen during the entire process that begins with a bundle of yarn and ends in a finished product.

Since ancient times, the word ‘Nishiki’ has been used as an adjective to denote great beauty. Historically, it has been highly revered by the Japanese people, inspiring great national pride as an icon of Japanese beauty.

Recently, Amane Tatsumura visited New Delhi and Varanasi in an attempt to take this fine art to next level which involves using gold and silk thread. Besides delivering lectures and power point presentations, the fourth generation weaver also interacted with an odd crowd of 100 people at Varanasi, including local weavers, BHU students and people engaged in Sericulture.

“Master Tatsumura visited Ram Nagar Weavers Society and examined the Banarasi silk saree, besides interacting with silk producers and BHU students. Bengaluru based silk producers and TV Maruthi, Chairman of ISEPC (Indian Silk Export Promotion Council) were also present at Varanasi event,” said Kubo Satoshi, a member of Japanese Delegation.

However, T S Chadha, Officiating Executive Director at ISEPC says is Japan’s ‘Silk Route’ to India may not be commercially viable owing to the expensive nature of Nishiki.

“This fine weaving which involves use of gold thread ma taken on a trial purpose but its marketing aspect and cost effectiveness has to be examined,” says Chadha.

“However, the weaving studio Koho may market the products on a trial basis since people in Japan are losing interest in this ancient art form. In such troubled times, this initiative by Japan and Tatsumura family could be considered as planting a sapling of Nishiki in a ‘foreign’ land,” says an ISEPC official.

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