5 Facts About Japanese Indigo Dye

[1] Origin of Indigo in Japan history

Indigo dye has its roots in ancient Japanese history. The oldest indigo-dyed cloth in Japan is kept in the Shoso-in treasure house of Todai-ji temple in Nara, which dates back to the Nara Period of AD 710 – 794. Be sure to keep a look out for these beautifully preserved treasures when you visit museums around Japan.

Did you know: The colour of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Emblem is in indigo colour?

Image source


[2] A necessity for Samurais

Samurais tend to wear a layer of clothing dyed in indigo under their armour. Indigo dye has anti-bacterial properties which keeps bacteria away from wounds and prevents infection. With its insect repelling effects, many Japanese farmers don clothing dyed with indigo to protect them from insect bites too.


[3] Takes up to 1 week to attain right colour shade

Unlike chemically-produced dye, traditional Japanese indigo dye takes almost a week to achieve its desired shade. Lightest shades typically requires a single dyeing cycle while repeated dyeing process are needed for darker shades.



[4] A colour that lasts

Through its repeated dyeing process, indigo-dyed threads receive a surface coating that makes them stronger. Over time, indigo dyed products turn softer and resilient. In the past when supplies were limited, it was very important to people that they were able to use their kimono or garments for an extended period of time. Hence, people oft turn to indigo dyed clothing.

Did you know: In the Izumo region indigo-dyed bath towels were used for babies as an auspicious item and patterned wrapping cloths were given to married women moving in with their husband’s family.


[5] A colour achieved through plants and fermentation

The rich hue of indigo comes from the Japanese indigo plant. The leaves are dried before starting on the fermentation process. This results in a substance called ‘sukumo’ which is then continues to be fermented. Keeping them at the right temperature is extremely vital in this process. The dye is left to produce beautiful indigo “flowers” (indigo coloured bubbles) that represents the fermentation. The whole fermentation process requires 10 to 30 days.

1 Comment