Tenugui used in daily life of Japanese people
A tenugui has too numerous functionalities to mention here. Owing to its material, cotton, tenugui is breathable and easily dried after being wet. There are many uses in contact with skin, such as wiping hands, wiping sweat, and washing your body in bathing. When we had cuts or scrapes, it has been used as a first aid bandage, or when we had a fever the wet tenugui was put on our forehead to cool down our body temperature. You can cover your head with tenugui like a hood, tie around your forehead as a headband (“Hachimaki”), or even twist up like a thin rope to wear tightly around your head. Japanese traditional festivals present many men wearing hachimaki tied around their heads.
A tenugui can be so useful even if it’s not in contact with our body. Furoshiki, another traditional Japanese cloth, could be the most-used as pack cloth in Japan, however, tenugui can substitute it if used for small articles, such as nuts, berries, and a Japanese sweet, Konpeito. Also tenugui can be employed in preparing soup stock out of dried bonito shavings. Placing the dried bonito shavings in tenugui, water is boiled in pot. Similarly it can work as filtering cloth in cooking.
When I was at camp site in Yamanashi prefecture, I didn’t have coffee dripper so used tenugui instead and successfully brewed a cup of coffee. First I boiled water in a small pot, and then waited for a few minutes until it cool down to the right temperature to make a coffee. Next I covered coarse grind coffee with tenugui and steeped it into the boiled water in the pot like making a cup of tea with a tea bag, but actually it was a “coffee bag” instantly invented. The knack is to try not to boil water too much, but stop heating just before it reaches boiling point, or aroma will be transpired in coffee. Anyway that coffee was delicious.
It’s cold and dry in winter in Japan, so we hang a couple of wet tenugui in our rooms that can work as a humidifier. This is the wisdom of people from Edo period when a piece of tenugui can be applied to various scenes in their daily life. Once a tenugui has worn out and become soften, it applied to a collar of kimono so as to protect the part from getting dirty. Furthermore if it became really outworn, people used a tenugui for a baby’s nappy or duster to wipe dining tables or floors. They have transformed tenugui into Hataki, a type of household cleaning tool, by bundling the cut strips attached to a wooden stick.
Depending on the arrangement made, how a piece of cotton towel has been giving richness in people’s daily life.
Throughout these processes, they have still consumed tenugui with patterns designed, not with a plain white cotton cloth. Japanese have found the quality with colored tenugui in their simple life.
In contrast to this, white clothing have been associated with the dead, samurais who committing hara-kiri, or otherwise brides in Japan. The extraordinary days are all colorless. But people’s daily life cannot be established without certain colors. This must be the reason why tenugui, no more than worth than a cloth, has been designed with patterns in Japan, and bringing us rich feeling in every moment of our life.
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