One thousand colours, from a master’s hand
“Forty-eight teas, and one hundred mice”. In the late Edo Period (1603-1898), an order from the government required ordinary citizens to limit their attire to three colours: tea-brown, mouse-grey and indigo. It was the residents of Edo (present day Tokyo), who pushed these restrictions to their limit. This spirit led them to develop so many variations in grey and brown that it inspired the saying: “Forty-eight teas, and one hundred mice”. Perhaps it reflected the sensibility toward colour in a country such as Japan, with four distinct seasons. Including the aforementioned forty eight browns, and one hundred greys, the traditional Japanese palette is said to include more than one thousand colours. Since it was established in 1951 the Kondo dye works has worked in these colours, realising them in the so-called “Tokyo plain dye style”. In front of a thickly steaming dye machine, the second generation head of the company Yoshiharu Kondo, can be found checking the finished dye colour against a sample book. All of the colours in the book can be made from combinations of just five shades: red, yellow, blue, green and black. The craftsman that can make one thousands colours from this palette truly has a master’s hand. Calling upon the skill of that hand, the number of orders to dye material other than white cloth is on the rise. As a result, Kondo’s techniques and experience in dye are bringing traditional colours into new fields.
2-15-3, Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-0024