What is the tenugui? The word derives from the characters "hand" and "wipe" so you might think it to be a humble handkerchief. But tenugui are so much more!
Tenugui first appeared in the Heian era, 794 to 1192 A.D and first used as an accessory in Shinto practices. However, the household item as we know it today was not originally as widespread. Tenugui began as fine luxury items, woven from silk or other costly materials, rendering them mostly inaccessible to the common population.
Later on, once fabric manufacturing became more prevalent and Japan started growing cotton in the Edo period, the price of tenugui and other like items became more accessible and people embraced the tea towel's versatility - headbands for kendo martial arts, handkerchiefs for sweaty summers, a household cleaning aid, gift wrapping, belts...you name it! The Japanese practice of onsen bathing particularly sparked tenugui's prevalence. Tenugui soon moved past its beginnings as an everyday necessity and progressed into fashion. Artisans began elevating the humble cloth into a stylish accessory to put on display, featuring artistic designs with colors, intricate patterns, and scenes.
With modernization, tenugui became passé in lieu of cotton-based goods and disposable items. However, here at Mizuba we see a renaissance!! We love the reusable, adaptable, quick-drying, tried and true utility of tenugui and we want to share our enthusiasm for this important historical and cultural Japanese good with you.
Enjoy this simple cloth for yourself and your matcha moments, or give a tenugui as a souvenir - wrap your next gift of matcha to your loved ones in a tenugui for a fun bonus gift!
How to take care of your tenugui:
However you choose to use your tenugui, take care of it, and it will take care of you. The more it ages, the more beautiful it will become.
The fabric is intentionally designed to have frayed edges. This allows the tenugui to dry more quickly, and be more hygienic. The frayed edges make it ideal to use as an everyday cloth or handkerchief. The more you use and wash the tenugui, the less it will fray.
For best results, hand-wash with like colors and hang-dry. Do not bleach, use hot water, or use detergent. Warm-iron if desired.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to use a tenugui. Be creative! Here are a few ideas:
- notebook cover
- wipe for matcha spills
- placemat (especially for your matcha station!)
- computer screen dust wipe, or a wipe for glasses
- workout sweat towel
- facial cleansing cloth
- pen / pencil case
- attractive gift wrap
- interior decor
- bag cover. This is a favorite of ours, especially for plane travel! If you have an open shopping bag, gently lay your tenugui over your goods and tuck in the corners. Instant cover!
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