Recently, I took an action of re-defining Japanese Sashiko by creating the new website (https://www.japanesesashiko.com/) as well as Facebook Group. My goal is to re-define what Sashiko is like for us – the Japanese – by sharing as many images of Japanese Sashiko as possible. The stories (words) are good media to describe the culture, but the images are more powerful to communicate what Sashiko is for the Japanese. It is quite sad that I have to use the word “Japanese Sashiko” since Sashiko (刺し子) is already a Japanese term. However, it is a necessary step to pass down the Sashiko we would like to share.
To be honest, it was more like an impulsive step for me after seeing many forms of interpretation of Sashiko. As much as I am open to the free interpretation of Sashiko (please check the article about “Cultural Appropriation in Sashiko”), it is very important for me to preserve the Japaneseness of Sashiko. Here, let me try my best to explain “why” it is so important for us to share the Japaneseness of Sashiko by re-define Japanese Sashiko. Please understand that it is NOT because of us trying to be the authority on Sashiko.
Japanese Sashiko may be new to you, but…
Sashiko may be new to you, but Sashiko has been a part of us for a long time – a big part of our life.
Sashiko, Upcycle, Slow-Fashion, Repurpose, (Invisible) Mending and Boro may be a series of trendy terms for someone. However, many Japanese practiced Sashiko a long time ago in Japanese history.
It (Sashiko and other hand-stitching for the purpose) isn’t the case that only happened in Japan. The culture of repurposing the fabric happened in many places in the world – especially where the people have didn’t have enough money to purchase the new fabric. We can find Sashiko as a culture because of the many good people who tried to pass it down to the next generation.
I want you to think a bit here.
Sashiko seems to be a new trend in Fashion and crafting. However, do you think the Japanese were proud of what they did as Sashiko? Some practiced Sashiko with good pride, I assume. However, at the same time, some practice Sashiko to mend the Jacket (to be called Boro later) with a sense of shame. Yes, “shame”. Therefore, it is unnatural for me to call Sashiko as the “Art”. As much as I appreciate the admiration from others of what we do as Art, and as much as I would like to lift Sashiko up to the category of Art, I cannot forget the origin of Sashiko – how the Japanese felt about it.
We sometimes only look at one perspective of matter – and then believe that it is everything. It is a form of (unintentional) ignorance that I am scared of the most. Therefore I am here to share.
Many Japanese have (had) spent their life to pass down this beautiful and unique culture. It looks like a form of Art, and many Japanese (have) practice(d) Sashiko as the form of Art. However, as long as I can tell, we all had a sense of “Japaneseness”. It is very difficult to get rid of the Japaneseness if one is born in Japan and then lived in Japan for a long time.
Now, the idea of Sashiko and Boro is spreading in the non-Japanese field with their own interpretation. Again, I welcome the free-interpretation. The culture is supposed to alter its form over time with mixing each other. However, as a Japanese who commit my life into Sashiko, I am determined to advocate the Japanese mindset behind the Sashiko.
There is a lot to learn from the Japanese who lived many hundreds of years ago.
Sashiko as more than a Trend
It is fascinating for me to see Sashiko in the world trend. I was born in a Sashiko family, and have been observing the Sashiko entire my life. This is probably the third time I see Sashiko in the trend. However, back then, we didn’t have Instagram or Facebook – not even the Internet. Therefore, the speed of spreading the trend is fascinating and somewhat scary. It wasn’t this fast (and not this shallow for that matter).
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to see Sashiko in the trend. At the same time, however, I do not want to simplify Sashiko by the temporary and instantaneous trend. The trend is quite fragile – if the mainstream of trend ends, then the people will forget about Sashiko, which could end up with more waste and disrespect.
I believe Sashiko as a lot to offer to this world. What I thought as “normal” maybe something that the world is in need of. Therefore, I would like to tell Sashiko as a Japanese mindset, not just a trend.
Caring is what we are missing in this society
I feel, in this speed-oriented society, we forget how important “caring for the others” is. I believe, we as human beings can care the others by default. In fact, “caring” is what defines the human being. The Caring – empathy & sharing made us different from the other animals.
However, in this busy society, we prioritize the benefit and individualism. When one’s benefit (money or status) is the first priority, then we try to exclude the others. When we apply this logic to Sashiko, someone who thinks of benefit and status may start excluding others in Sashiko as well. Therefore, I keep saying, “caring” is the key to Sashiko and please respect the Japanese mindset to pass down Sashiko – otherwise, I am okay to see any form of interpretation of Sashiko.
We can care for each other when we are mindful. I believe the human being naturally can do that. However, it is quite difficult to be mindful of our busy day. When we enjoy Sashiko, both hands are occupied with the needle and fabric. We can perceive the visual and audio information such as TV and Radio passively, but we cannot aggressively look for the information when we enjoy Sashiko. We cannot use the smartphone to get more productive or competitive when we practice Sashiko – the only aggressive thing we can do is to ask “Alexa”.
While stitching, we can be more mindful than the other time of the day. I would like to respect the mindfulness we can appreciate by doing Sashiko. Even when we become mindful of stitching, our brain does not get empty. It is important to empty your brain (no-thought) in zen practice, but it is not that natural to be completely “empty” in Sashiko stitching. I think it is perfectly fine to think while stitching – when we think without looking for the information aggressively, we think of someone – family, friends and including oneself. The care doesn’t have to be a form of Love or Joy. It could be a hatred of jealous. What I would like to get rid of is “ignorance”.
Therefore, I keep saying the importance of caring for others.
What I would like to ask you to care Sashiko
Thank you very much for reading the long article this far. I am grateful that you care about the Sashiko we would like to pass down. I have been mentioning on this website, but there are things I would like to ask you to do – if you could care about the Sashiko.
(1) Understand who you are supporting
Because Sashiko became the trend, many “business” joined the market. I can see some companies putting the name of “Sashiko” for marketing purposes. Even with the supplies, there are many dealers now who sell Sashiko supplies. Please be attentive that who you are purchasing from. The purchase directly supports what the seller does. If the money grabber seller is in the market only for the profit, then when the trend is over, they will withdraw everything they offer. It could destroy the circulation of supplies – the money grabber sellers are usually a big company that could offer a better deal in terms of pricing and customer service because of the “scale merit”. In the worse case, they may be selling something “Sashiko” without any relationship (respect) to Sashiko. Please be mindful when you purchase – you are directly choosing who you would like to support.
(2) Keep learning the Sashiko
I have a LOT of stories to share. I share them on Facebook as well as on Instagram. If you would like to support what I do, please consider joining the Patreon as well. It is a platform where I share honest insight about the Sashiko. It is also a good idea to learn the technique. Sashiko is more than stitching – and the posture and movement we share will enable you to enjoy the Sashiko as a process rather than the result.
The deeper we learn the culture and philosophy of Sashiko, the more chance we have to pass down this culture to the next generation instead of a temporary trend. Your continuous learning is the key to Sashiko’s culture
(3) Spread the words – Keep enjoying
Lastly, and most importantly, please share what I am writing here. I get many questions and comments via emails and Social Media. Some of them, unfortunately, is pretty rude. Therefore, I do not follow-up as I used to do. However, there are enough materials to read already on this website and on social media. If you are reading this article this far, you probably know where the specific articles are: if not, I share it on Patreon first.
For those who care for what I do enough in the form of respect, I will share everything I have. I hope you can keep enjoying Sashiko and keep spreading the words.
I am here for you to support your Sashiko journey.