A tenugui is a thin Japanese hand towel made of cotton. These towels are usually about 35cm by 90cm (about 13 ½ inches by 35 inches), plain weaved and almost always dyed with some pattern. Yeah, I’m essentially just talking about Japanese tea towels. But think about how important tea is to Japanese culture, as well as design and illustration too. A bit kitsch, but tenugui are gorgeous items for the kitchen and provide nice reminders of that special trip to Japan They’re light weight and can be packed with easy. They won’t break the bank either. Bingo! Tenegui is the ideal souvenir or gift.
A great place to pick up your tenugui – along with a range of other artfully designed fabrics – in Kyoto is Eirakuya. This business has been around since 1615 and still adheres to tradition when it comes to making tenugui. Originally a producer of silk as cotton became more common, Eirakuya began to offer cotton kimonos and eventually tenugui and towels.
Designs span traditional to modern with something for every season and major holiday or occasion with the average tenugui running about 1,500 yen (roughly $17) in price. But a few less expensive items (as well as a few more high end gift ideas) are available. The shop also offers a line of fashionable cotton tote bags along with a variety of hats, ties, handkerchiefs, scarves and more. Quality and durability are high for all Eirakuya and sister brand merchandise.
Even if you don’t find that perfect tenugui for yourself or that special someone back home, Eirakuya is a lovely space for a browse. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled across a fabric design in the heart of Kyoto. Nearby is age old Nishiki market, Kyoto’s so called “kitchen,” along with all sorts of shops restaurants, temples, bars, attractions and more.
Eirakuya is located at 368 Ennogyoja-Cho, Sanjo Agaru, Muromachi-Dori, Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto. Opening hours are from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. daily. English is spoken in the shop, and like everywhere in Japan, the sales staff are more than happy to giftwrap your purchases. Find out more at eirakuya.jp.
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Photo: Chris Osburn