Tucked out of the way between the centre of Matsuyama and Mitsuhama is the Mingei Iyo-Kasuri Kaikan, a place devoted to the folk craft (mingei) of weaving with dyed yarn (kasuri). Part museum and part shop, it’s set back from the road so that you would hardly notice it, but for the tall white chimney painted with its name.
The building itself is attractive with a traditional Japanese-style frontage, resplendent with elaborate plaster and tile work, and a little garden of manicured pines. Behind this frontage is a series of sheds that house the exhibits.
When I visited in February, the lobby was filled with roly-poly himedaruma dolls to mark the hina matsuri, a doll’s festival that falls in this season. There were also many other dolls brought out for the occasion, some dating from the Edo period. Dolls aren’t to everybody’s taste, but I found it very entertaining to look closely at the faces and imagine the characters that they were modeled on. Some of them were very real-seeming. The regular exhibits also include a good number of dolls.
However the main focus of the museum is dyeing and weaving. The whole process is explained in various sections, all with many actual examples of the dyes, cloths and equipment, as well as photographs of the processes from earlier times. Many of the products on sale in the two shops within the complex are made on site, and you can watch the staff at work. The staff are very friendly. One lady invited me to sit at a loom. I crammed myself into the small seating space and she would have had me weaving in a trice, if only my legs hadn’t lacked the room to move the treadles.
You may be aware that Japan’s national football team wears a colour that’s given the name ‘samurai blue’. This is a deep blue colour from the plant called ai. In earlier times, all but the aristocracy and rich merchants wore clothes dyed this colour, sometimes decorated with patterns of white yarn woven into the fabric. You can actually try your hand at tie-dying an article with this elegant blue colour for a very reasonable price.
The combination of historical artifacts and photography with the textiles, dolls, and industrial machinery is strangely compelling. The woven products in the shops are also very attractive, and they would make practical and long-lasting mementos of your time in Ehime. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
There's also an attractive and reasonably-priced restaurant within the Hall.
Name in Japanese
民芸伊予かすり会館 — mingei iyo-kasuri kaikan — Iyo-Kasuri Folk Craft Hall
I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.