11 May, 2015
Today’s discovery about Hyogo is Ako Dantsu Rugs which are hand-knotted cotton pile rugs created by women in Ako City. The origin of Ako Dantsu Rugs traced back to the 19th century and its beauty has handed down from generation to generation among the local women. It’s the best known hand-knotted luxury rugs in Japan and there’s something special about them. I paid a visit to one of a handful of weaving studios in Ako City, Hyogo.
Called ‘dantsu’ in Japanese, hand knotted rugs are works of art, and many taking several months to create. Creation of Ako Dantsu was invented by an inspirational woman named Naka Kojima who was born and raised in Ako. Inspired by Chinese rugs, she first produced Ako Dantsu Rug in 1874 after 26 years of working and developing. Using high quality 100% cotton, traditional weaving techniques and designs, it handed down for decades among the local women in Ako. Predominantly, men would work in salt field and their wives would weave rugs in the 19th century in the city
At the peak of its popularity, they adorned the Imperial House of Japan and other governmental buildings and exported to Australia, the UK, and the USA. However, the industry faced a drastic decline in 1930s and they were forced to close factories under the prohibition of cotton trade in the middle of the World War II. Some resumed weaving after the war, but they found it difficult to get back because machine-made rugs and carpets dominated the market. In 1991, Ako City decided to implement long-lasting succession plans that will preserve its legacy for future generations. They opened weaving classes for the younger women taught by Kirie Sakaguchi who was the only Ako Dantsu weaver left in the city at that time. Passion for the local produce won the survival and is embraced by the nation today.
The most unique about Ako Dantsu is its distinctive hand tufting process. Highly skilled artisans cut the long or uneven pile using three methods with special scissors to ensure equal height of the piles and polish the design. It is such a delicate touch and makes difference. Japanese people are so good at taking time and create quality that will last forever. You can visit their Kariya Stadio ,which is located only walking distances from JR Banshu-Ako sation, and see how they weave Ako Dantsu Rugs before your eyes. Hands-on workshops are available if you book in advance.
Ako City is known as a historical town with full of mouthwatering food such as ramen and oysters, and hot springs with a stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea. Not very far from Himeji.
Ako Dantsu Rugs Kariya Stadio
Location: 2073-4 Kariya, Ako City, Hyogo, 678-0239
Opening hours: 10:00 - 12:30/ 14:00 -16:00
(closed on national holidays, the second and fourth Sundays of the month)