Tenugui - Printed Textiles with Japanese Patterns

Tenugui are small pieces of cloth for everyday use. They make perfect gifts and souvenirs. Now many Japanese carry small towels in their bags, but before the more fluffy towels became popular tenugui was widely used.

A tenugui is a thin piece of cloth made from cotton. It dries very quickly, is very light, and the short sides are usually cut off. You can dry your hands with it, hold a hot drink from a vending machine with it, fold it into a headband, or wrap something with it. With just one of them you can add color to your home. Imagine some of them on your walls.

Kamawanu has a good explanation about the history and making of tenugui on their website. It also lists their store locations.

There are many different patterns for tenugui and for me that is their main appeal. In Asakusa there are several shops selling tenugui and it is always a pleasure to see their display. There are prints and designs for the seasons, special holidays, and festivals. In the pictures you can see the autumn prints showing flowers and plants associated with this season in Japan, such as the celebrated chrysanthemum flowers.

You can find tenugui everywhere in Japan. If you do not see a specialised store, try the big department stores. They usually have a section with all Japanese products. In Asakusa there are several shops selling tenugui. Kamawanu always has a wide selection of designs and many are less than 1000 yen. At the Fujiya tenugui store many of the tenugui are designed like small paintings. Prices depend on the design, 1000-2000 yen.

Pick up one of these small cotton cloths for yourself and more for your friends as a souvenir from Japan. They are lightweight, fold into small pieces, are decorative and soft to the touch. And with a little bit of inspiration you could turn them into small bags or cuddly toys with beautiful Japanese patterns.

by David

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