Locations, Photojournalism

A Kimono Dyeing Factory in Tokyo

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (34)

It’s a new year but I’m continuing my series from last year, which is to show you a bunch of cool kimono-related things I shot for this book a few years ago. In the last blog post I focused on a really exclusive and high end kimono dyeing atelier run by a single guy. Here is a different kind of kimono dyeing factory that is a little bit on the other end of the spectrum, but no less cool.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (40)

The first thing you see when you arrive at this place is this enormous rack for hanging and drying these really, really long bolts of kimono fabric that have just been dyed. It’s really impressive and there are plenty walking about on top of it hanging bits of fabrics or taking them in for folding. More photos of this thing later.

By the way I used to have the Nikon system until I sold it and bought into the mirrorless camera revolution – I don’t miss anything about Nikon all that much except for the spectacular Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8. That thing is the most compelling reason to shoot Nikon and I used it a lot in this factory because there was so much visual interest that could be crammed into the one frame. You’ll see.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (39)

When you enter the factory this is the first thing you’ll see off to your right. There’s steam everywhere and the whole place is lit up by frosted windows and bare fluorescent tubes. Massive drums of who-knows-what (probably dye) are in the middle of the floor and the empties are stacked haphazardly in a corner, waiting to come crashing down if a dumb photographer with no spatial awareness decides to walk into them. (it didn’t happen but I came close)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (38)

A closer look at one of the work benches. That lighting from those bare fluorescents is literally the best thing ever. I need to take those with me for every portrait.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (37)

Here’s a different workbench for what looks like a different type of work. This area seems similar to the stencil-type dyeing that I saw in Hirose Atelier.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (36)

This old guy right here was the coolest dude in the whole place. He was just working away paying me no mind the whole time I had a camera in his face (which was a long time), more often than not with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I because slightly obsessed with him, needless to say.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (35)

Here’s a closer look at what the old guy was doing – using a stencil and trowel to imprint a pattern into fabric.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (34)

I have no idea what this guy is doing (they kind of just let me inside the factory and told me to have fun – no explanations) – but steam is cool. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t toxic.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (32)

Another stencilling shot from above.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (30)

Semi-completed bolts are waiting for rinsing before they can be dried.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (29)

A worker sets a bolt of cloth in the rinsing machine, which is a really long trough and a metal tumbler that really violently drags the newly dyed fabric through the water. It’s really surprising no one has lost an arm to that thing.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (2)

Here is the machine at work, rinsing or rather, beating the excess dye off the fabric.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (28)

This multicolored stack of kimono fabric is awesome.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (27)

Another worker wrings out the kimono fabric once it has gone through the rinsing machine.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (26)

Not sure what’s going on here but don’t you just love the lighting and how cool the interior of the factory looks? Getting to visit places like these is what makes me glad to be a photographer.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (25)

Really not sure what’s going on here but if I had to guess…actually I can’t begin to guess because I don’t want to look silly if I get it wrong. They are obviously doing something right though because the color is really starting so show through nicely.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (24)

Pulled back shot of the same person doing the same process on a different piece of cloth.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (23)

The lighting in these places just blows my mind. I’ve never had such an easy or enjoyable time taking photos.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (22)

Back outside, under the massive drying rack for bolts of cloth that are over 20 meters long.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (21)

A worker prepares to hang a few shorter pieces of fabric.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (20)

That 14mm sure comes in handy in a place like this. Almost wish I hadn’t sold it…

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (18)

Now we’re on top of that structure with some other workers. Those gaps are big enough to put your entire foot through so you’d better watch your step! No safety equipment required, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (17)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (15)

Alternate view showing the biggest laundry rack in the world.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (14)

Inside the room where the finished fabrics get rolled up and stored. Hope they’ve stocked up on mothballs!

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (13)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (12)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (11)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (10)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (9)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (8)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (7)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (6)

This here’s the owner of the factory, so I shot a few quick portraits of him while I was there.

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (5)

Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (1)

To end with, here’s a photo of my favorite dude 🙂