An essential part of the traditional ensemble is the obi -- the woven sash worn with the kimono. A weaver looked up to the Northern Lights to find inspiration for the obi for Canada.
The sounds of a weaver's loom... an echo of his skill.
Kisaburo Ogawa is the foremost master of Hakata-ori. This weaving technique has been handed down for nearly eight centuries.
Ogawa has been recognized by the Japanese government as a living national treasure. He specializes in Hakata-obi sashes that feature a traditional design consisting of two sets of stripes and two geometrical patterns. Every obi Ogawa weaves contains just these four elements.
Ogawa says he follows a fixed, standardized motif. To depict Canada, he just has to figure out the best colors and sizing. He says it's simple but at the same time challenging.
But the more he thinks about it, the harder it seems to become.
Ogawa has been weaving for more than 60 years. But this is the first time he's using the conventions of Hakata-ori weaving to express the qualities of an entire country.
He intends to emphasize red and white, the colors of the Canadian flag, in his design.
One by one, he sets nearly 6,000 warp threads into the loom. In Hakata-ori, only the warp threads are used to create contrasting colors and patterns. So, misplacing even one thread would affect the overall design.
Then he starts weaving, following a rhythm that has become second nature through years of practice.
He says his hope is that people will see Canada represented in his obi design.
Ogawa has depicted Canada using only four patterns. This represents the country's national flag.
Interwoven inside are colors that evoke Canada's vast natural beauty...Ogawa captured the aurora borealis in delicate gradations of red.
A palette that transitions from green to scarlet... like the changing colors of the seasons.
A closer look reveals the extent of Ogawa's artistry and skill. He's included the traditional design elements in hues of red. Viewed at certain angles, the surface becomes luminous.
The silk threads are delicate. Ogawa adjusts the tension depending on temperature and humidity conditions.
If there's not enough tension, the pattern becomes distorted. And compared to when its woven correctly, it appears dull. If the tension is too tight, the pattern looks flat.
Ogawa makes minute adjustments, using instincts he has acquired over time.
Finally, it's time to unveil the completed obi.
It's paired with the kimono representing Canada, which features motifs such as the maple leaf.
The ensemble was presented to the Canadian delegation during a Group of Seven event.
A member of the Canadian delegation says it conveys a lot of respect for Canada -- and integrates the four seasons there.
Ogawa's creation illustrates how an artisan can use just four elements to create infinite expression.
For Ogawa, tradition is something to which the contemporary should be added, before passing it on to the next generation. He says people may equate tradition with something old, but it can also lead to something new.
This Japanese weaver has devoted his life to keeping alive centuries of artistry. Now his mastery is transcending convention, and bringing the beauty of Hakata-ori to the world.