A Treasured Creation: Today's Treasure - Ai, the Natural Indigo of Japan
"It's kami (gods) that have helped us for generations." So says Sato Akihito (82), a 19th-generation Ai, or indigo, producer. Digging into a hot mound of Ai, he immediately knows what the Ai "wants." Ai makes an almost mystical color due to time, several fermentation processes and constant care. It requires a delicate balance between the power of humans and Ai, as well as dye artisans who are dedicated to the craft of Aizome, or indigo dyeing. We take a look at the incessant dialog between humans, fungus and plant matter, which epitomizes the Japanese attitude towards nature and beauty.
A mound of dried Ai leaves fermenting in its own heat covered in fungus. For 100 days, Ai producers diligently care for it according to its needs.
The 19-generation Ai producer Sato Akihito digs his hands into the hot mound to smell the Ai and determine what needs to be done each day.
Appraising the color and texture of the finished Ai to determine the true value of that year's work.
Both producers and dye artisans must use the wisdom of ages to read how well the fungus works with the Ai in order to produce the natural Ai colors of Japan.