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Boro (textile)

Boro (Japanese: ぼろ) are a class of Japanese textiles that have been mended or patched together. The term is derived from Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired. As hemp was more widely available in Japan than cotton, they were often woven together for warmth. Hemp usage was neccesitated by the fact that cotton, a tropical plant, could not be cultivated in cold areas such as the Tohoku reigon, especially the northernmost region of Aomori Prefecture. Furthermore, during the Edo period fabrics made from silk and cotton were reserved for only a select portion of the upper class. Boro thus came to predominately signify clothing worn by the peasant farming classes, who mended their garments with spare fabric scrapes out of economic necessity. In many cases, the usage of such a boro garment would be handed down over generations, eventually resembling a patchwork after decades of mending.

The use of indigo dyes (Japanese: Aizome) was common. Boro also exemplifies the Japanese Aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, in that the fabric reflects the beauty of natural wear and use.

Following the Meiji Period and the general increase in living standards amongst the entire Japanese populace, most boro pieces were discarded and replaced by newer clothing. To working class Japanese, these boro garments were an embarrassing reminder of their former poverty, and little effort was expanded by government or cultural institutions at the time to preserve such artifacts. Many extant examples were only preserved due to the efforts of folklorist Chuzaburo Tanaka, who personally collected over 20,000 pieces during his lifetime, including 786 items now designated as Important Tangible Cultural Properties. 1,500 of these items are on permanent exhibition at Amuse Museum in Asakusa, Tokyo.

[[Category:Textile arts of Japan]]

  • noragi, Japanese farmer or peasant clothing
  • sashiko stitching, a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan
  • Mottainai, a Japanese term conveying a sense of regret concerning waste
  • Shibui, Japanese aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty
  • Wabi-sabi, Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection
  • Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise


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