Kamawanu is Breathing New Life into the Ancient Japanese Craft of Tenugui Hand Towels

Tenugui are a type of cloth that has been a part of Japanese life since the Heian Period beginning in the 800s. The word tenugui literally means hand wipe, but the utilitarian towels have been used for everything from drying and cleaning to wrapping. Endlessly versatile, they were even used as fashion accessories in the Edo Period.

Founded in 1990, Kamawanu is a Tokyo-based company dedicated to preserving the craft and culture of tenugui towels.

The company specializes in the “Chusen” dyeing technique, which dates back to Meiji-era Japan. Dye is poured on the cloth, soaking each strand of cotton all the way through and creating a finish that does not harden. The resulting patterns have no front or back, making the cloth reversible. Watch the video below to see how each towel is made.

Each Kamawanu tenugui is handmade by artisans who have honed their craft over the years, taking into consideration the weather and humidity as they adjust their process throughout the year. The result is individually unique pieces of cloth that blend into your home without being obtrusive. They grow softer over time and have a way of becoming part of your lifestyle.

Kamawanu has created over 500 patterns, each inspired by motifs and seasonality of Japanese history and nature. We’ve curated a small collection of some of our favorites, over at the Spoon & Tamago shop. You might notice that the first row consists of standard patterns while the next three rows are our curated collection of seasonal selections that trace the year through spring, summer, autumn and then winter.

3 Comments

  1. Deborah Studwell

    May 18, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    I love tenugui, I use them for nap lapkins, and I have several hanging in my house at any given time. I love to change them seasonally. I am reminded of my time in Japan when I see them. BTW, please say hello to your parents for me. I think they might remember me from ASIJ. I hope they are well. also, I really enjoy Spoon and Tamago, well done.

  2. This brings to mind one of my favorite businesses in NYC: Wuhao, a wonderful little shop owned by an extremely friendly Japanese woman who has brought the art of tenugui to America. She produces hundreds of patterns, including traditional motifs and seasonal collections. I own several and use them every day; I couldn’t recommend her more highly. http://www.wuhaonyc.com/

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