As you may have noticed, the term “shouha” as appeared more than once as a type weave relating to tea textiles. Not being precisely familiar with shouha, and the dictionary having failed me, I found this interesting website about it, and I kindly translated it for you.

Kimono Museum 28

Although I’ve pointed out the vagueness of textile terminology many times previously, “shouha” is as usual a very difficult to understand weave.

Take for example types of obi; what do you think of? Maru-obi, fukuro-obi, nagoya-obi, hanhaba-obi: these are all different shapes of an obi. Nishijin-ori, Hakata-ori: these are names of where obi are made. Kara-ori, Saga-nishiki, tsudzure, etc are all names of different weaves. We can’t know what term to use to call an obi. But then again, people who strictly understand the difference between all those terms are few.

When I was in Kyoto, I visited a six floor wholesale store whose second floor contained only obi. This was 15 years ago, when the textile industry was still quite lively compared to today. Obi were piled into 20 or 30 obi high mountains, and however many of these mountains were just lined up. When an order came it, the right obi was pulled out from these obi. Being in this room, with the smell of tatami and obi mingling together was, very nostalgic for me. One time, my more experienced coworker pulled out an obi. He skillfully slide his hand into the plastic bags used to protect the obi, searching for the right one. Suddenly, he stopped and took the obi out the bag and showed it to me, saying,
“Oh, this is a shouha obi.”
“Yes, see how soft and lacking in wrinkles.”
Certainly, this obi was soft and didn’t wrinkle when lightly touched.
“How is it different from other obi?”
“Oh well it’s woven differently.”
“How differently?”
“Ah, this’s Hakata.”
I wanted to know detailedly about shouha, but he wouldn’t give me a true answer.

Anyway, my mind would not give me peace until discovered just exactly what sort of obi a shouha obi was. I didn’t want to have to tell customers “I don’t know,” after all. So, I looked into what sort of obi shouha was. I researched in books I owned and in library books, but there really wasn’t anything on shouha. The little they had was this next bit:

“Shouha (Inherited-Jewel): a type of woven silk fabric. Using vertical weft threads that are dyed various colours, it displays a pattern organized into a mountain shape or a crumbled twill. It’s texture is of similar thickness to a damask satin (donsu shuchin) etc, used for the inner lining of haori blazers. It is mainly produce in the Nishijin area of Kyoto.” The Weaving and Dyeing Dictionary

“Shouha (Szechwan-Jewel): a famous textile and one of the Ming Dynasty figured textiles. It has minute pattern of horizontal cedar trees or mountains woven with the the vertical weft using slightly twisted threads. It has various horizontal designs including cloud flowers, lotus and botan flowers, game designs. Because of the base fabric’s thickness, it is used as a bag for a hikiya. It is also written shouha (Various-Jewels) or shouha (Banana-Jewel).” The Big Dictionary of Dyeing and Weaving in Primary Colours

“Shouha-Ori: A woven silk with a particular softness of touch China contrived and invented in the Ming dynastic period. It takes its name from SATOMURA Shouha, a student of Sen no Rikyuu and renga poet who was fond of a famous gold brocade.”

Even though I researched through a mountain of documents, only a little bit could be found as relating to shouha.Using the few resources I found, the characteristics of shouha were these next three things:

  • It is a woven silk textile whose design is shown by using coloured threads, the same as damask.
  • It was invented during the Ming Dynasty in China.
  • The name “Shouha” comes from the renga poet SATOMURA Shouha.

Without connecting and relating each of the descriptions, could I know this modern obi fabric was discovered in the Ming Dynasty? They don’t clearly say whether the fabric SATO MURA Shouha loved was the same fabric as shouha. Also, if shouha is named after SATOMURA Shouha, I don’t understand why it can be written with so many different characters.

Looking up the entry on shouha in the encyclopedia, they all talk about SATOMURA Shouha, and none of them even mention the fabric.

Because there wasn’t really anything written about shouha, I tried talking to a kindly weaver, “Is there really such a word as shouha? Even the dictionary doesn’t talk mention it.”

“The word shouha is used by us.”
“Then what sort of fabric is it?”
Having persistantly dogged the answer, I finally got a clear answer.
“The shouha that we weave has a two layers of vertical threads (betsugarami) with the horizontal weft threads tightly packed together with both sides of the fabric looking the same.”
It was an explanation I understood, but also didn’t. But that can’t be heled with using specialist terminology. So finally, I added this next bit:

  • After undergoing many changes, that the textile called shouha meant for a modern obi does not have any real definition is the truth.

Really, figuring out this shouha stuff is not very refreshing. But the fact remains that I have a without a doubt a shouha-woven obi in front of me.

In modern times, shouha is woven for fukuro and 9-sun long nagoya obi in Nishijin or Hakata. Both types are few but they have been woven unchangingly from ancient times. The term shouha is used by weavers and wholesale stores, but is rarely heard by consumers. As I mentioned before, there are many terms you can call an obi, so rather than calling it shouha, people call it a”stylish fukuro obi” or a “Hakata fukuro obi”, I suppose.

One can truely feel the refreshing simplicity of shouha fukuro obi, when compared to showy kara-ori, saga-nishiki, or tsudzure obi. As a fashionable obi, it is perfect for an o-chaji. it is something we want to at least once have. I think we have gain an understanding of shouha’s characteristics.

Although shouha can hardly be found in the dictionary, even if the traditionally dyed and woven appearance disappears, at least the word “shouha” might still be left to posterity.