The unique Japanese culture around noren curtains, which gently divide the inside and the outside,and outstanding Japanese traditional dyeing techniques

Noren Curtains developed in Japanese Living

 Have you seen a cloth with a store name or logo hanging at the entrance of a Japanese restaurant? This cloth is called noren, a traditional cultural item in Japan that is perceived as a store symbol.
 Noren curtains first appeared in Japan more than a thousand years ago. Noren initially indicated a hanging fabric made for inside protection against the cold, but it has gained more roles as time passed. Noren curtains have been cherished in Japan with four distinct seasons as they let the wind and light through, allowing the outside comfort to come inside. Noren was hung at the building's entrance not only for protection against the cold but also a sunshade or a divider. At businesses, noren has designs of store names or industry types and functions as an advertising medium. The word, noren, gradually became used as a face of the store or the store itself in addition to describing the curtain itself.

Japanese Sensibility to regard a Cloth as a Divider

 A torii gate at a shrine has an open structure with no particular barrier, but the Japanese consider it a border between the divine and human areas. Similarly, they perceive a noren curtain as a border between this side and the other side. The notion of regarding the area behind noren as the other side without physically securing the divider is probably unique to the Japanese culture and philosophy.
 Shin Nakamura from Nakamura with an office in Tokyo collaborates with dyeing artisans across Japan to produce many noren. He describes noren curtains as the "entrance to Japanology."
 "Depending on how noren is hung in a certain setting, the quality of the space changes. However, I felt that no one could judge the space properly. My job is to produce noren comprehensively from space design and global perspectives. By proposing to incorporate the noren culture, I hope that many people will get to know the excellence of Japanese dyeing techniques."

Combining Japanese Traditional Techniques and Overseas Designers

 When Nakamura participated in a project to combine Japanese traditional techniques and Singaporean designs, he teamed up with a Singaporean designer to create a dotted interior art panel. He felt that there would be a lack of understanding if he abruptly brought noren to Singapore. After many discussions with the designer, he decided to make an interior item that is more readily accepted in Singapore, utilizing one of the noren dyeing techniques.
 He chose a technique called wasarasa where multiple paper patterns are used to dye different patterns, which is regularly used for dyeing kimono fabrics. Nakamura describes the production process as follows.
 "The quality of printing has significantly improved in modern days with the development of its technology, making it hard to distinguish ourselves. Even the designer who was not familiar with the traditional dyeing production regarded this point as a challenge. In the end, the designer chose to purposefully layer colours, instead of regularly dyeing each colour with different patterns, to express random and complicated colours. We considered to create a design that visualizes the process with six-colour layers."
 However, wasarasa always requires beautiful expressions of intricate patterns, so they went through trial and error with the process of dyeing simple and large circles without distortion.
 "As a result of hard work by dyeing artisans, we were able to achieve a beautiful finish with an unprecedented depth of colours that cannot be expressed with superficial prints, utilizing the strength of the wasarasa techniques. By combining various elements, including traditional Japanese techniques, designs derived from overseas perspectives, and the direction to raise the angle of the project, we are able to produce new values."

Ministry of Design / Colin Seah

Expanding Possibilities of Traditional Techniques through Noren

 "There are a diverse variety of artisans in Japan. They have different characteristics even with the same techniques. For example, some excel at applying dyes evenly while others are skilled at creating gradation. Therefore, there is a possibility to expand areas of work in the traditional dyeing methods. And most importantly, many artisans are eager to continue challenging to expand the areas where they can use their techniques."
 Nakamura concludes by saying that he wants to protect Japan's allure, including noren hanging curtains and traditional dyeing techniques, while understanding the different senses of space and colours depending on countries and regions, to propose products that can fit the lifestyle of each place.