Blue & White sends you the very best of Japan.
A rising Sun of red chili.

An antiques indigo katazome sleeping futon. 19th century.

A washi Dog of characters for the New Year.

With Best Indigo wishes
And hopes you will come see Blue & White in the New Year.

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THE 12 JOYS OF 2018

The thirteenth joy is Blue & White.

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From its humble origins as a cotton boll, its fibers are plucked and stretched and twisted into multi-ply threads that are stripped down to single ply then twisted into strands to make a sturdier thread for weaving and stitching, the cotton thread has been a staple for Japanese cloth for centuries.  Studies vary, but the cotton culture has been actively maintained since the 15th century, having been introduced in the late Nara period or early Heian around the 9th century.

Its fortuitous meeting with indigo in about the 15th century and their dance in the dexterous hands and sensitive minds of Japanese craftsmen has produced a tradition of extraordinary indigo textiles that is unparalleled in the world.  (this report might be biased!)

It is ongoing today in the workplaces of increasing numbers of dedicated dyers, spinners, and weavers throughout Japan.

Last week I had the excitement of visiting one such enterprise.  Japan Blue Textile Company in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, where two brothers maintain their family business in a compound of spinning and dyeing and weaving and rolling and selling their work in a manner not far advanced from their industrial beginnings, working on ancient weaving machines thumping away at their work.

Not afraid to stitch or dye, Shoji Tsujimura enjoys experimenting with his own clothes and devising new variations with indigo.

I was happily surprised to learn that there are a number of weaving and dyeing companies in the surrounding area.

In this hands-on industry, there are never enough hands to man the dye pots and the loom upwarping, the weavings, the overseeing.  More people are necessary to perpetuate this tenuous industry. Here a man bends to the somewhat mechanized task of wringing out the indigo dyed fibers.

The aibana, indigo flower in the indigo brew needs stirring and tending to each day to maintain its vitality to produce rich tones of indigo.

Tedious bindings of threads produce striking blue and white threads.

The ultimate blue and white thread is one mysteriously blended in alternating shades of indigo.

In Japan a red thread is thought to connect lovers and is often alluded to at wedding ceremonies.  But to my mind, it is an indigo thread that connects people and weaves them together, in Japan and beyond: from blue jeans to uniforms to flags.  You find it everywhere, the indigo thread of destiny.

Spools of indigo thread feed into the clackety looms that operate on programmed design cards at Japan Blue Textile Company.

Smooth sailing in the weaving room.

Experienced eyes oversee the looms and check for errors.

Too much to do, too few to do it is an often heard remark in these labor intensive enterprises.

Tall spindly bobbins of various indigo threads are grooved by time and use in the weaving process.

End result!  Brilliant blues in varying shades and weaves and textures of indigo cotton and hemp show the infinite variety and hand of the color blue!
Perfect for cushions, clothing for table, for daily living, and clothes to wear.
Indigo brings tranquility and simple elegance to wherever it is used.

Coming soon to Blue & White will be cool indigo jackets and handsome shirts for men.  Get with it.  Wear something with hand and heart and history.
Go Indigo!

For centuries indigo threads have been the foundation of Japanese textiles. Here a 19th century Yogi of stenciled karakusa with crane roundels has deepened into a soft shade of indigo with white motifs with a unique family crest on the back.  It was probably created as part of a dowry and filled with cotton or silk batting as a sleeping kimono.  From Amy Katoh’s collection of antique indigo textiles that she is reluctantly winnowing.

Indigo threads of all kinds are hanging in the window of the shop now and for sale at Blue & White. They brighten life with their endless variations and shades of eternal blue.

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After a morning compiling Mottainai images of Boro and old Meiji era patched washi ledgers at home, my head was filled with patches and mends I couldn’t have enough of all the things I had collected over many years. Once you fall in love with Boro and things that have been saved and mended and patched and treasured, you can’t stop. You just want to see more, have more.

Late for work (again!), I rushed to the subway for the 20 minute ride to Blue & White in Azabu Juban . I had missed rush hour, so it shouldn’t be crowded, I thought. I found a seat, and across from me was an older man rifling through his rather large plastic bag of shopping. I saw a banana pass by. He took a pair of chopsticks in his hand and I wondered if he was going to eat lunch on the train. But no, he was just making sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. From another bag he took out of large scruffy greenish folder of what seemed to be more Mottainai. Patched and layered, bent with use and constant handling, his bulging album of scraps was clearly a treasure and I watched as he pored through the pages, wetting my curiosity to see what was inside. I couldn’t resist. I went over and sat beside him and asked whether that was a scrapbook. He tentatively said yes, and I told him that I had spent the morning looking at old Japanese Boro papers and cloth and rope and was very interested in scraps. Would he mind showing me what he had assembled.

He forgot his hesitation and was surprised at my interest. He told me he read the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Japan’s Wall Street Journal every day and cut out articles and pasted them in his album. He underlined, crossed out, highlighted, circled cross hatched, colored in and annotated the important bits.

I was impressed that he only saved articles from The Japan Economic Journal and clearly prized what he read and saved. When I asked whether he ever went back to read what he had saved and pasted, he said “of course it is very important information.”

His album was thick and well worn, well read, well glued. He said he had patched the pages over and over. I asked him how long it took him to compile a scrapbook of this size, and he said he filled it in just a few months. When I remarked that his house must be overflowing with these collages, he sheepishly nodded but said that each volume was a treasure.

A few weeks ago, he told me, he had several of them with him when he put them down to buy a drink on the train, and he forgot them. When he went back to retrieve them, they were gone. He was heart broken and very upset to have lost them. He had put all his reading and thinking and composing into each one.

He soon became used to my nosey questions and when I asked if I could see the cover, he gladly showed me, pointing out the number of mends and additions and overlays. Not unlike the spirit of Boro, a somewhat unconscious work of patching things together to strengthen and fortify, his collages had a new life of their own removed from the original boxy orthodoxy of a newspaper. I asked him if he referred to his collages after he had created them and he said, Oh yes! They are very important to me.

When I told him I was interested in cloth collages, indigo boro, he told me he was from Okayama and his grandmother used to weave Asa or hemp, so he was very familiar with what I told him I collected. He looked at my workman’s pants and recognized them, realizing that we had many, eccentricities in common.

His workmanship had a sense of urgency to it – underlines, circles, blackouts, cross hatches. It must have meant something to him, but I couldn’t even tell which side was up. I couldn’t read it, shame to say, so there was no invasion of privacy – other than brazenly sitting next to him on the train and asking none-of-my-business questions.

He told me he used to work in the oil industry in Texas but said nothing of his current life other than making scrapbooks of admirable heft and girth. I was impressed at the amount of reading that must have precluded them.

After he had recovered from the surprise of having a strange looking old woman across him and start barraging him with questions, he wound up maybe even gratified that he had found a soul mate – fellow hoarder? who could appreciate his obsession with preserving and annotating newspaper clippings.

Time was up. Azabu Juban was the next stop and I asked if I could take a photo of him. He gladly smiled with his scrapbook of treasures on his lap.

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Yukata are HOT this year!
Yukata means summer!  And Tokyo summers are HOT!

The long stencil patterned cotton robes for summer have made a come back this summer and everyone was wearing them at Tokyo’s Azabu Juban Matsuri on the last weekend of August.  Thousands of people came for the two day summer festival and many were wearing Yukata in big, bold and surprising combinations.

And they weren’t just the cheap multi colored yukata that were popular a few years ago.  This year there were bold designs, brilliant colors, and fine quality weaves and dyes.  And above all, they were worn with pizazz, and Japanache !   A fan tucked in here or there, a chic obi tie, good looking geta on the feet.  Everyone was young !  The thinking was young.  (I was by FAR the oldest celebrant, though not in Yukata myself).  Everyone seemed at home in their “native dress”, as though they had come back home from long years of experimenting with western fashions.   Yukata came naturally to them and the taste was surprising and excellent.

As is the tradition in kimono and yukata, there is a sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle sense of fashion, of knowing what is good, how to put different parts together, of tapping into what is cool.  Look at me, the yukata said. What good taste I have! about the parade of people celebrating Juban Matsuri.  Juban means number 10 district in Azabu Ward, and this year they added a G to their banners and it became JUBANG. And rightly so !  It was a loud and exciting two days of music and fun.




There was a real bang in the crowd, people came to have a good time, eat well – food was more gourmet than the usual festival fare of tako yaki (grilled octopus) and yaki soba.  Apparently the restaurants in the neighborhood were providing the food.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures, though when I got back to the shop, the building’s security fellow scolded me for not asking permission when I took photos.  But that would have spoiled the spontaneity, I thought to myself as I tried to explain myself.  Many shots are from the back anyway, and I hereby apologize to those whose photos I snuck. Some gladly posed.

There are many ways of dressing for the festival. This woman was proud to pose with her dapper showpiece dog and gladly gave me permission to take their photo

I did not ask this woman, but modesty didn’t seem to be her stye!

Tatoos are all over the place this year.

Not everyone wore Yukata. There were other forms of chic as well, enjoying yourself, and other ways of getting attention!

But Yukata style clearly was the popular mode for the festival


IKI, Japanese word for simple sophistication, cool front and back, was in.


People by the thousands came to Jubang Matsuri to have a good time and relax in/show off their summer yukata.  It was a style show in good taste and enjoying life.  And reassuring to see that the Yukata is still with it and cool and a return to Japanese roots. Tadaima! I’m home, these fashions seemed to be saying, echoing the “MADE IN JAPAN” signs that are popping up on products in shops these days. There is a new pride in things Japanese, along with a realization – finally! – of the excellence of Japanese designs and craftsmanship.

People by the thousands came to Jubang Matsuri to have a good time and relax in/ show off their summer yukata.  It was a style show in good taste and enjoying life.  And reassuring to see that the Yukata is still with it and cool and ULTIMATE JAPAN.


AZABU JUBANG MATSURI was the place to be.
And Yukata was the way to dress!

Little customers posed in their recently bought jinbei from. The Matsuri spirit was shared by all and as happens at festivals, you chatted with the person next to you, complimented him on what he is wearing, asked where he got what he is eating. Instant friendship were formed. Drinks were  free flowing, but Yukata chic was what  gave the Matsuri its spark.

At the top of the escalator, the Blue & White landing gave a great view on the festivities below.  People came to have a look at the Matsuri below and at the peaceful shop filled with yukata derivatives and accessories.

They also came to check in and catch up.
Yukata naturals.  The woman on the right and left below are mother and daughter, 7th and 8th generations of Todaya Shoten, our oldest and most trusted dyer. Perfect models for living Yukata! Yakata in real life!

Inside Blue & White there was still more fashion.  People came to see what we had, and also to show us their sense of style, and just to say Hi!

Show us what they had.
Natural Yukata Style.
At home in yukata.

A beautiful shibori yukata.

Kimono came too, natural kimono.
This woman, seemed quite at home in kimono with beautifully orchestrated parts that play and communicate lifestyles.

So free and natural in her kimono, she found the perfect “Tsuno (horned) indigo shibori bag by Hiroyuki Shindo of Kyoto.  Her kimonoed friend wanted one too and ordered another.



Ultimate good taste.

The subtle combining of kimono and obi, under layers, and magical kibiso stole made of leftover silk cocoons is a lesson in kimono elegance by a woman who teaches Japanese to fortunate foreigners She is an ambassador of style and craftsmanship and their combining.

Without realizing it, Blue & White has become a destination for people who wear Yukata and Kimono.  They are happy to show us and know we appreciate their sharing of their great sense of style.  We encourage people to keep leading the way in the renaissance of this quintessential form of Japanese dress and style and carefully choosing all the critical pieces of craftsmanship that make up its totality.

Why do I continue to take photos from the rear? I am not sure why, but maybe it is because that is where the obi blooms in its pattern and weave and the way it is knotted. How it is tied and how it offsets the graceful shoulders and the slim figure and the graceful neck of the wearer.  And also maybe so I won’t get in trouble for not asking permission.  (Not the case here! I even wrote a letter to confirm her agreement to be used on this blog. She kindly consented.)


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A Basket Case!

Blue & White will be having a special Basket Case SALE from Monday June 26 until July 3!

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The New Blue & White seems to be a magnet for new blues.

And that is what we feature in Blue & White to show to the world and to all who visit.

The parade of blues is unending and I can NEVER have enough. Nor do I ever cease to be amazed by the NEW BLUES !

Look at what just moved in to the small Palette Gallery next door to Blue& White! The luminous one stroke! Blue paintings of Mina Kazuki, a young artist similarly obsessed with blue. Her group show ended on June 19.


I am asking her to paint a special One Stroke Blue for Blue & White


Blues to wear always draw my eye, but this kimono worn by Mayumi Barakan after her stunning dance performance was Divine.

At last I have seen the PERFECT kimono! Mayumi told me she had had it for 20 years or so, but it was still fresh and lustrous.  Silk kasuri in all its glory.


Even from the back it was mesmerizing.  I couldn’t stop staring!  Or taking photos.


The blue and white washi, Japanese paper necklaces of Kyoko Fujimura bring joy and playfulness to all who try them.  This amusing woman who lives in Azabu Juban performed a jig of joy for us inspired by her new necklace.  She bought two.


This customer from Seattle was happy to take the washi earrings home with her.



Necklace made from deep indigo washi by Kyoko Fujimura


Blue plates and rag weave rug by artisans of Tamagawa Special Abilities craftsmen sell out as soon as they come in.

When our new visitor, Monica met the artisan who made the rag weave tapestry, she immediately wrapped it around her to wear and take home. Both were thrilled !


Gouged blue plate by Tamagawa Workshop



Even my dearest friend has caught the blue and white bug – and mastered it ! Voila!


Blue cloth.

Indigo dyeing at Ai Kobo, now named Factory Ai.

Traditional earthenware indigo pots filled with indigo grown and processed in Shikoku.

When I made a sudden visit to Ai Kobo, I found things being dyed, hanging out to dry, and ready for me to take back to Blue & White.

I was overwhelmed by their industry.

And organization.



Members of Ai Kobo all have specialties.

This woman’s specialty is graduated indigo.  A deep clear indigo disappears into white.  Not an easy technique!


This woman uses old film canisters to  clamp the cloth and produce hear white circles when the shirt is immersed in the indigo dye..

Mastering one technique is a key to the success of Ai Kobo / Factory Ai.  It nurtures pride in one’s own work. This man does pole dyeing shibori.

Man replicates the blues of nature.In the rainy season, hydrangeas treat us to an infinity of Blue.


New best friends. We came across them playing baseball after sumo practice!

A young sumo wrestler

Black dog Basho

Blue collar

Blue glove

True Blue !

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Rocket scientists and bamboo dealers, potters and poets have come to see the new Blue & White and have declared it a great success.

WHEW ! We have been working hard on getting the move upstairs right so that the new shop would carry the Blue & White spirit, and yet go forward with new energy and a fresh young persona.

Blue & White has reinvented itself in a bright new space, open-to-the-world where people are welcome to come and see our choice of the best of Japan in rotation.

We are jumping for joy!

We were deluged with flowers from many fields. Orchids from Okinawa and from across the street, wild flowers and wheat from Ishikawa Prefecture.

Our smiling ceramic Otafuku door handle still welcomes all to Blue & White.

After four busy months of preparing for the new shop, we reopened on April 29, the birthday of the Showa Emperor with delicious homemade food and cup cakes and cookies and drinks.

Robbie Belgrade and Bruce Huebner provided music that set the perfect tone of celebration. Their fabulous music was unexpectedly interrupted by the drumbeat and wacky music of 3 Chindonya, a musical troupe of riotous musicians dressed in comical Japanese costume, beating drums and symbols, and playing clarinets, who have an age-old tradition of going around neighborhoods to announce the opening of a new shop. They were a marvelous surprise from secret admirers in New York!

Food was homemade and delicious. Generous friends came and brought their home cooked specialties.

The hit of the day were cookies and cupcakes from twin chefs, Zoe and Jemima who put their artistry into their baked goods.

Their lacey blue filigree cookies went so fast that they were gone before I could take a photo . Fortunately one of our guests took one for me.


The New Blue & White is filled with vitality, ideas and a palpable atmosphere of welcome and communication.

Joy Boy and Genki Girl are giant welcomes of fabric patches on both sides: of cut cardboard, old indigo on one side, contemporary strips of tenugui and yukata patches on the other. They stand in the large double display window inviting people to come in and see how we have fused old Japan and new, and forged them together into a new configuration for all to enjoy.

Each corner is a small vignette of like objects grouped together:

paper goods, things for sewing, ceramics and table ware.

An indigo corner.

Books and oddities. All manner of ideas for present giving.

These owly ladies made by Shobu Gakuen seem like a modern day Otafuku, making people laugh.


Bags, paper, ceramics and tableware


And of course our signature Tenugui and Yukata


Indigo koi nobori fly in the windows

An escalator delivers people right to our door, and outside there is a safe space at our entrance at the top of the escalator for children to test drive their indigo koi nobori made by the artisans of Factory Ai (indigo), a special abilities workshop.


It is very clear.

Blue & White has created a space where koi nobori and sashiko and handmade things of old Japan and new can play together happily in their new windows on the world for all to enjoy.


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                        In January of 2017, Blue &White moved from its original site                                             of 41 years in Azabu Juban.  The last 3 months have given us a                                           chance to regroup and refresh and observe the world around                                                                                  us more closely

                                      and see how much is going on in the world outside –                                                                          flying kites,  trimming trees, smokey moons


Our world spins in blues and whites:  
Previous page:
Tenugui roosters drying at Asahi Dye Works
Woman modelling kimono at O Edo Antique Market, first and third Sundays
Exhibit of Tenugui and Yukata creations by Todaya Shoten, attests to future possibilities for tenugui.
And February on the thick handmade washi calendar of Shobu Gakuen in Kagoshima


Contrasting squares of tenugui and yukata patterns make music for the eyes Todaya Shoten exhibit March 17, 18, 19 2017




We have not been idle !

We have been working hard getting ready for the new shop. Thinking of new ways to dress, new fashions to present!


thumb_IMG_5931_1024-1We have had time to take in Blue & White street scenes

Elegant spotted shades of indigo and white kasuri on a masterful but seemingly carefree Kurume kasuri kimono.  (She agreed to being photographed, but asked me not to include her face.)

More blue and white spots at a neighborhood festival bringing a Tai, red snapper of congratulations to offer to the tiny shrine with blazing red and white banners lining the path to the Matsuri


S U R P R I S E !

Not ready to show photos of the shop – everything’s covered and barred in now, but the New Blue & White will open soon – white, bright and filled with new creations in indigo, tenugui and ceramics..

Opening April 29th!   Look for the Checkerboard Banners.  They will show the way to the fresh and bright new shop bursting with energy, ideas and Indigo.  Old things, too.

                                BLUE & WHITE

                        A NEW LANDMARK IN AZABU JUBAN !

                             THE  NEW  DESTINATION



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BLUE & WHITE has suddenly and mysteriously vanished.
In one quick day, 41 years of colorful history disappeared.
Totally demolished and leveled and fenced in. What a Shock!

We hope some of you have worried where we have gone, and wondered what has happened to us.
Into hibernation might be the best answer.

What was once a cozy shop filled with charm and quirkiness is now a memory, or a photograph.
The front of the shop was studded with ancient imari shards collected from the beaches of Japan. The walls were hung with old textiles and quits.

Even the bathroom had pizazz!


The old shop, created in the open space beside a supermarket, was deemed illegal and demolished to make way for the new market, super power AEON.
Blue & White was leveled and given space upstairs on the other side of the building.

We moved out of our 41 plus year premises on January 10, six weeks ago, and packed ourselves up into hundreds of boxes to sort and cull and edit for the New Edition of Blue & White – Fresh and Young and Sleek – to Debut in April of this year. Our new space on the second floor of Aeon Market in a bright window filled corner is sure to become a new landmark in Tokyo for those looking for Indigo, sashiko, handmade ceramics, tenugui, clothing, bags and presents in all shades of blue and white.

The pick of Japan.
All made by hand. All made with heart.
We will be even more exciting than before and showcase the best that Japan has to offer in blue and white.

We are excited about the change in Blue & White. We will be bright and beautiful and look out over the charming neighborhood of Azabu Juban. A new perspective/ vantage point.

We will be new and different in many ways, but still, as always, bring to the world the best and most extraordinary handmade crafts of Japan.

We take this change as a chance for us to remake ourselves into a young, dynamic and slightly zany, fun-loving place where people will be welcome to come and chat and enjoy themselves. Do come and have a good time, while having a look at what we have chosen. We offer you the cream of blue and white creations in Japan. Blue & White presents old ideas in new ways.

Look for the Blue & White checkerboard banners. They will show the way to the newest hot spot in town.
The New Blue & White in Azabu Juban –
Coming soon!
Think April.


The last dance in the old Blue & White
Indigo stoles by Ai Kobo Special
Abilities Workshop in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward.


By word of window
We let the neighborhood know,
it was time for a change . . .
However undesired.


After the party was over and we had moved out, we realized what a beautiful space it was for 41 years, in the very heart of one of Tokyo’s most lively and charming old times/new times neighborhoods where we could not just watch the world go by, but be a vital part of the neighborhood.


Down to the bathroom floors, the eternal blue and white combination was everywhere!


The movers wore blue & white And they RAN to deliver their blue and white boxes from storage.


Construction began yesterday. Wrap around windows will make Blue & White a new look out point on Azabu Juban, the charming old fashioned neighborhood where we have been for 42 years now.


Blue & White dreaming . . .  of all we can do with all those windows on the world, windows on Azabu Juban windows on the parking lot!


One artist’s rendering of what we will look like. But this is not half of it!

Our new space on the second floor of Aeon Market in a bright window filled corner will become a new landmark in Tokyo for those looking for Indigo, sashiko, handmade ceramics, tenugui, clothing, bags and presents in all shades of blue and white.


However new we become,
we will always embrace the old, the broken, the imperfect.
Surprising you with old things in new ways and new things you’ve never seen before.


Antique glass Go pieces, a Japanese game of chess.

Blue & White
forever spinning
forever presenting new ways of seeing Japan
and appreciating, no, loving it!


The good times will roll again soon.
Look for us on the 2nd floor right side of Aeon Supermarket.
We’ll be there as soon as we can.
Soft opening at the beginning of April.

Enter through the market, upstairs through the side door.
Formal opening: 29th of April when the escalator entrance to Blue & White is completed and you can enter through our front door.


Surprising you with old things in new ways and new things you’ve never seen before.


Old friends will be there.
Yoshida Ichiro, a wild and wonderful textile artist from Shikoku.

Below: Shobu Gakuen, an inspired and inspiring Art Center for People with Special Abilities in Kagoshima, Kyushu.




We will all be waiting for you to come and bless our new home
and join us making merry!



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