Japanese Tenugui

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Tenugui: Simple, Utilitarian Edo Style

The tenugui cloth serves a great variety of purposes. Although nowadays commonly replaced by towels and handkerchiefs, it is drawing attention anew as a convenient and eco-friendly tool of life based in traditional Japanese culture.
Tenugui generally refers to a rectangular piece of woven cotton cloth. With repeated use, this cloth becomes soft and comfortable against the skin. Its excellent absorbency and compactness when folded make it an ideal travel companion, for use as a towel and even as a makeshift furoshiki wrapping cloth. Because of its simple form, several tenugui in the same pattern can be sewn together and made into a dress, shirt, or kinchaku drawstring bag.
A perhaps less known fact is that the tenugui is an important prop in rakugo entertainment. Hanashika storytellers often liken the cloth to a wallet or letter, or use it to wipe off sweat or dab their mouths, either for real or as part of their act. Many also create tenugui in original patterns or marked with their crest, and hand them out in place of a business card or sell them at solo performances.
With the increasing popularity of the tenugui, makers are coming up with modern and pop patterns in addition to traditional motifs. Try them out for your own daily use, as a token of thanks or salutation, or as a souvenir.

Photo courtesy of: Chidoriya

Photo courtesy of: Kamawanu

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