We are in Imabari city, Ehime prefecture. There is a company president here who made a truly wonderful dream come true.
Mr. Toshikatsu Kaji from Shimanami cotton farm runs a gift shop in Imabari. Some years ago, while wondering if there was anything he could do for his home region, he came up with the idea of making towels from locally grown cotton! Since then, he’s been working determinedly with cotton.
As a raw material for kasuri (a weaving technique for dyed thread) cotton was cultivated in Japan until the end of the 1890s. It was even cultivated here in Imabari, but as imports of high quality, low priced western cotton increased, demand for Japanese cotton decreased to the point that you rarely see it anymore.
However, as part of the restoration efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, a salt resistant cotton-cultivating project was begun and Japanese cotton is again gaining attention.
Mr. Kaji is working to make cotton that is not only Japanese, but also organically cultivated – Neither a single drop of any agrochemical nor a single grain of chemical fertilizer is used during production. Rice paddy fields that were no longer in use were made into cotton fields. However, it’s said that growing organic cotton is really difficult.
Despite everyone saying it was impossible, Mr. Kaji continued to chase his dream until he finally succeeded. Nowadays, many visitors come from all over Japan to study his cultivation methods.
The rare high-grade organic cotton grown at Shimanami cotton farm is a Supima variety (ELS, extra long staple cotton). Come summer, it grows taller than the average person!
Dear readers, have you ever seen a cotton flower?
The flowers differ according to the cotton variety, but this is the Supima cotton flower, a flower rarely seen in Japan.
And this is raw cotton.
So this is how cotton is formed.
Next we will be introducing cotton products made from purely Japanese, pesticide-free, organically cultivated cotton, which was born of Mr. Kaji’s hard work.
The Platinum Towel, made with high grade organic cotton.
Despite their rather high price with (JPY30,000 each), they’ve been introduced all over the Japanese media and are gaining a lot of attention.
Here they are:
Called Shimanami Bijin (‘Shimanami Beauty’), these scarves were created in 2014.
They’re soft, light, and feel almost like the robes of celestial maidens!!
Please, check them out for yourself.
And then, this is the 2015 product, Shimanami Bijin Hiraori Kusakisome (plain woven, vegetable dyed Shimanami Beauty).
They’re organic scarves, all dyed individually using Japanese Bayberry.
The natural hues give a lovely finish…
Although everyone said it could not be done, Mr. Kaji didn’t give up his dream on the cotton fields! Someday the city of Imabari may be filled with cotton flowers.
Shimanami Cotton Farm
Location: 5 Chome-2-15 Koizumi, Imabari city, Ehime prefecture
Homepage: http://www.shimanami-cotton.co.jp/index.html (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi
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