Today’s first post covers the visit to the silk farmer and sericulturist Koyata san. Koyata san is in his early to mid 90’s at this point and this is our third visit with him at his house and cocoonery. Although he is 4 years older now than when I first met him he remains the same- maybe it is the steep uphill climb to his family shrine and graveyard nearby that keeps him so fit in addition to the daily chores of silkworm rearing he continues to do. These days, he does get some help from the Tama Silk Life 21 group that preserves traditional silk techniques, history and intellectual property through education, practice and exhibitions. It is difficult and sad to see so much disappearing before our very eyes.
Koyata san and Okonoge sensei
Upon our arrival we were greeted as the bus pulled up by a group of volunteers from the Tama Silk Life 21 group who were here for the day to help educate us on silk sericulture. We have met them before and they are very happy to see our interest in what they are doing. It has become increasingly difficult to interest the younger generation in sericulture and it’s important place in the history of Japan.
We began with a visit into the cocoonery- where the kaiko (silkworms) are raised-
Noriko explains the process in English
The white powder you see is lime- it helps keep the silkworms dry as they shed their skins and move into the next instar.
3rd instar kaiko
inbetween instars, they take a rest from eating and look like they are in a “praying pose”.
Once they have shed their skins, they will become ravenous and the 4th and 5th instars are a very busy time with all the feeding that takes place. Much mulberry leaf is eaten!
Moving on- we learn to reel silk cocoons-
Sensei gives us the reeling demonstration
the whole reeling set up
Sue reels and is amazed! Gambate Sue!
hands that know teach hands that learn…
Here, we begin to learn about the cocoon and the pupae inside.
then we learn to spread the cocoons into mawata-or as we call it silk hankies.
I make mawata- everyone got a turn here.
then, we learned to take the cocoons and spread them into a lofty quilt bat. Quite an amazing process.
mawata spreading 1
mawata spreading 2
mawata spreading 3
Repeating this about 100 times a silk quilt bat was made and inserted into a cotton cover which was then tied and stitched closed.
tying and stitching- the finishing touches
Seems I will have to conclude this post in part two- my internet connection here is about to end as I have to travel to Shibuya this morning. Will conclude the visit and also show you the fabulous visit to the Amuse Museum where the boro exhibit is located.
a little preview…
shibori and sashiko