紫根染 Shikon-zome

Shikon-zome, like Ai-zome (indigo dyeing) and Benihana-zome (safflower dyeing), is one of Japan’s three great ancient dyeing traditions. Murasaki, the raw material, was already being cultivated as far back as the Asuka period (538 – 710). The mysterious power of the color purple is suggested by how many civilizations around the world have treated it as a “forbidden color” whose use was restricted only to those of high birth. Shikon-zome uses the dried roots of the murasakisō plant, which once grew wild throughout Japan. It was a labor-intensive process, requiring two years for mordanting and then keeping the thread away from sunlight for a few years to fix the color.

紫根染は藍染、紅花染と並ぶ、日本三大色素の一つです。飛鳥、奈良、平安時代では天皇、公家にしか赦されない禁色(きんじき)として、鎌倉時代には身分の高い武士の身に着ける甲冑の紫縅(むらさきおどし)に、江戸時代には京紫や江戸紫の色は庶民には手の届かない高価な色として染められてきました。