The Japanese have used horses for centuries, primarily by the samurai class. The Japanese did not make extensive use of leather and much of the horse’s trappings were constructed of non-leather material such as cloth. This held true for the reins of their horses which were often made of cotton. Today at festivals such as matsuri, horses are often colorfully dressed in the trappings of a samurai steed. The reins are often of a blue/white or blue/gray striped pattern, as are the reins offered here.
These cotton reins were dyed with indigo using the katazome technique – a traditional stencil used with a paste resist. There are four kanji characters written in black ink on one end. This slender length of fabric is hand-stitched, pieced and measures approximately 217 inches long, 2.5 inches wide (double sided). There are long basting stitches of black cotton thread along much of one edge. This textile is in excellent condition with a deep shade of indigo.