Japanese tenugui cloths

tenugui with chrysanthemums

nihon tenugui by okikurashoten.

The multipurpose Japanese cloth known as the tenugui has had a meandering history that includes ritual, practical and decorative uses. The tenugui is a 1′ x 3′ rectangle of thin woven fabric originally used for ritual purposes (silk and hemp blend tenugui have been found dating from 200 AD), then more practically as a hand towel, bandage, or sweatband often worn around the head, most famously by samurai fighters. Later it was taken up as part of the costume in Kabuki and was printed with designs specific to plays or actors. As a result its status rose, and today beautifully printed tenugui are bought as commemorative souvenirs or are hung on walls as decoration, though of course they are also still used as hand towels or dish towels in Japan, and as furoshiki for wrapping and many other purposes. Sometimes tenugui double as “noren” or doorway curtains in Japan, and one of the reasons they look so good used that way is that they are often printed in such a way that the design is equally visible on both sides. More history and information at  Ping Mag and Wuhao.

tenugui selection from Ping Mag

Star Wars tenugui

More below.

tenugui as noren

Tenugui 4 by Wynette.

tenugui spider web from Ping Mag

tenugui jellyfish; headwear

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