Who is Itchiku Kubota?

Itchiku Kubota was born in Kanda, Tokyo in 1917, where he studied Yuzen under Kiyoshi Kobayashi from the age of 14. His first encounter at 20 with a piece of Tsujigahana from the Muromachi Period at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno changed his life.

The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

“Restraining the pounding of my heart, I gazed intently at that small piece of fabric exuding a subtle and profound atmosphere (...). It carried a quality that was almost plaintive and mysterious. In the hall which was practically devoid of visitors, I continued to look at that small piece of fabric, as if placed under a spell, for over three hours”.(Itchiku Kubota, in "Itchiku Tsujigahana : works of Itchiku Kubota", 1979 (translation) 

 

Tsujigahana was a popular pattern dyeing method in the Muromachi to early Edo period. It briefly flourished and suddenly disappeared. Itchiku was fascinated by the mysterious beauty of the cloth.

Since that time Itchiku devoted himself to reviving Tsujigahana dyeing processes, while making his living by hand-drawn yuzen.

He experienced hardships such as being drafted to the frontlines during the war, losing in a battle, and detention in Siberia until demobilization at the age of 31. Seven years later he finally decided to devote himself to the creation of his own Tsujigahana, not as an attempt to imitate the past but rather to celebrate a glorious dyeing technique in the present day.

San, reminiscent of Itchiku Kubota's captive years in Siberia. This kimono was, for Kubota, the milestone of his career.

The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

After much trial and error, aged 60, Itchiku finally discovered a technique which could revive Tsujigahana. He named it “Itchiku Tsujigahana” : a perfect marriage between past and present and as homage to a historical and much admired technique.

Through acclaimed exhibitions in Europe, North America and Japan, the “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique gained worldwide recognition. So did Itchiku Kubota, who was awarded the French Arts and Culture Medal in 1990.

Itchiku Kubota's seal, visible on each of his creations.

The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum