-the beauty of waste-

OKUSO was waste produced in the process of making ply-jointed thread from hemp.

In Japan in the past, common people made thread from tree-bast fibers and grass-bast fibers using ply-joints, long before they could obtain cotton and silk. Tree-basts include Japanese linden, wisteria, elm and paper mulberry. Grass-basts include hemp, ramie, kuzu and basho, the last a type of banana.

Hemp in particular was used for many kinds of clothing and household goods as well as for sacred and offertory objects.

In the process of making hemp thread, some waste naturally occured. This short-fibered waste, called OKUSO, was collected and then spun like cotton or wrapped around ply-jointed hemp thread. The thread made from OKUSO was thick, soft and warm but it was not very strong, so it was used for the weft of the cloth, and ply-jointed thread was used for the warp.

People called cloth woven from OKUSO thread OKUSO-FU and called workwear made from this cloth OKUSO-ZAKKURI.. The term ZAKKURI probably comes from the word "saki-ori" which refers to rag-weave, cloth woven from scraps of used material.

At that time, it was important to have workwear made of cloth that was warm and comfortable. OKUSO cloth became softer and softer with each washing, not unlike cotton, and thus it was the ideal textile for this purpose.

Workwear and other articles of OKUSO dating from the second half of the 19th to early 20th centuries have been found only in a small region along the border of Fukui and Ishikawa prefectures, but OKUSO was likely to have been produced over a much wider area for many centuries before cotton was readily available. This is because OKUSO waste fiber would have been a natural by-product of hemp thread production, and hemp has been plied into thread all over Japan since ancient times.

In the past, people in Japan wasted nothing, and turned even apparent waste into objects of great utility and beauty.

The Japanese have traditionally turned frugality into richness.
This idea of wealth-in-poverty is summed up by the phrase "mottai-nai," which can be translated as "wasteful" and at the same time calls for all things to be treated with care. OKUSO textiles were certainly an expression of "mottai-nai," which was once a necessary quality of the Japanese heart but is now sadly disappearing from our lives....