Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tenugui - Japanese towels

At school we wear thin cotton towels on our heads during "cleaning time". This is the one I've been using. It was left for me by my predecessor. Apparently it's the traditional Japanese design.

This is the one John wears -also left by his predecessor.


I noticed that my teachers carry around a small towel to dry their hands since our bathrooms have no paper towels or hand driers. So, I bought this one at Daiso last year for hand drying. By the way, that sounds like a really cool environmentally conscious practice and it is, but it's also pretty annoying to carry around a slightly damp towel in your pocket/purse/desk drawer all the time.

We bought this one to commemorate the Onbashira festival last Spring. It's more of a terry cloth towel texture. We've been hanging it on our wall.


Everyone brings a cloth placemat to eat their lunch on. Ours look like this.


I use this furoshiki for my lunch - as a napkin or to wrap fruit in.


Back to traditional tenugui: When teachers leave at the end of the year, they give a small present to all the remaining teachers. I know the tenugui is a really common gift in Japan, but I also got the sense they thought I could use an updated cleaning time look because I received four. (I also received a set of chopsticks, lots of French pastries, other sweets and a calendar. Oh and our neighbor dropped off a mystery food offering.)

I've started using this one for cleaning time.

This one is too pretty to use at all. Gorgeous, right?

This one's not really my jam. It has bunnies.

This doily type one is a small square meant for drying hands only. It's from the building engineer/maintenance man guy. He retired. I'm going to miss that guy. We planted leeks together last year and he was always trimming the weeds by our house. Wow, this towel is fancy though!


Tenugui are a perfect example of something that a) we hadn't heard about before we came here b) are now totally necessary to our lives in Japan but c) will seem strange and superfluous when we bring them home eventually.

** Update: A couple hours after posting this our doorbell rang.
It was our new neighbor with the traditional gift you give to your neighbors if you've just moved in. Oh boy. It's more of a dish towel texture though and we can always use those. We actually had kind of a normal conversation - names, where we work, where we're from, etc. Hooray!

1 comment:

  1. I've actually heard about tenugui before--in the context of shibori patterns. Crazy right?

    The very first towel with dots: is it by chance called a "bean" or mame pattern? It looks like it's covered in little rows of evenly spaced spots. My old-school shibori book says the mame pattern is "made with a special device" (though it doesn't tell me what) and that it's an old traditional pattern usually found on small towels.

    In theory, I love the idea of not throwing away a million paper towels in every public space. But do you need to carry a little bag, to carry your little towel, with you at all times? Could be annoying, just like you said!

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