EGYPT: Weaving Ancient Egypt in Kimono

    Artisans around Japan have been working on a project in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. They're creating kimono, Japan's traditional dress, to represent each country and region, including Egypt.

    "Tsuzure ori" is the art of creating detailed pictures out of thread. It originated in ancient Egypt among the Coptic people and is thought to have arrived in Japan over 1,000 years ago.

    One of the more intricate variations of the technique is so time consuming only a few centimeters can be completed a day. Weavers in Japan even cut grooves into their fingernails to help them guide the threads precisely into place.

    The design for the Egypt-themed obi features Horus, an Egyptian god with a falcon head. Its wings spread over 80 cm wide, making this an exceptionally big design for tsuzure ori.

    Threads of 9 different shades of gold will be used for the falcon. The subtle color differences bring each of the feathers to life.

    "To bring out the colors better, you mix in a clashing, darker gold among those shades that match. That gives it some spice," says artisan Yoshiro Matsuura.

    The obi will be paired with a kimono that depicts the white outline of pyramids backlit by the sun.

    It's the creation of Hirotoshi Fukumura, an artisan of "shibori," or resist dyeing. It's a complex technique that leaves part of the fabric undyed and it requires a lot of time and effort.

    Fukumura has half a century of experience with this technique. But he still feels a little nervous at the unthreading stage.

    "Until the last moment, I was worried about the black leaking over, but the white lines came out beautifully," Fukumura says.

    Meanwhile the obi was reaching completion, too. The final work will be handled by a veteran of 40 years.

    Eight months after starting the design process, the obi is finally ready - using techniques that originated in distant Egypt. The Egyptian god Horus stands out beautifully in gold against the black.

    On the right of the kimono are countless stars in the Egyptian sky as well as hieroglyphics. In an arid desert, a black pyramid is pictured glowing red at its peak. The image recalls the colors of the Egyptian flag. On the left are plants and animals motifs popular in Japanese kimono designs.

    Students from Egypt shared their thoughts on the finished kimono.

    "I honestly think that this is just a piece of art. The design is just beautiful, beautifully made," says Egyptian student Juliane Barakat.

    Traditional weaving craftsmanship originating in Egypt, and dyeing techniques originating in Japan have helped draw these two distant countries together in a kimono that transcends thousands of years of history.