藍墨でつづる般若心経の書き下し文。濃紺の文字が目に鮮やか=徳島県吉野川市鴨島町西麻植

 2020年東京五輪・パラリンピックのエンブレムに採用されて注目を集めている藍色。藍といえば服や手拭いなど、布を染める染料としてのイメージが強いが、最近はさまざまな分野で活用されている。阿波藍の新たな魅力を追う。

The indigo blue, the color also known as Japan blue, has been the emblem of Tokushima, a western region of Japan, where most of the indigo dye is produced. Now it’s drawing attention of the people all over the world as it’s adopted for the emblem of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The image that comes to mind thinking of indigo is likely associated with dying a fabric such as clothes and Japanese hand towel called “tenugui,” however, it is also used for different products. . Let’s discover the unknown charm of Japanese indigo blue with us.

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 筆に墨を含ませて般若心経をつづる。「観自在菩薩(ぼさつ)、深般若波羅蜜多」。書き始めてから45分。縦1・1㍍、横3・6㍍の大きな和紙を濃紺の文字が埋め尽くした。

「藍色だと優しい雰囲気に仕上がる」。筆を執った徳島県吉野川市鴨島町西麻植の書家吉野美苑さん(53)=本名・美保=が話す。使ったのは藍の色素をにかわで練り固めた藍墨。「にじみにくく、凜とした字体によく合う」 

藍墨は江戸時代、藍染の副産物として生まれ、浮世絵や絵馬の彩色に使われた。しかし、藍染が衰退した明治後期以降、ほとんど見られなくなった。

藍墨を4年前に商品化したのが「藍色工房」(高松市)。藍墨を大人向けの塗り絵に使う人もいて、万年筆や、つけペンの形でも売り出そうと研究している。藍墨にこだわった吉野さんの作品は10月1~10日、吉野川市鴨島町牛島のギャラリーカフェ「サンスマイル」に展示される。

Putting her brush in indigo blue ink, Miho Yoshino, AKA Bien Yoshino, 53-year-old calligraphist from Tokushima, began writing sentences from “Heart Sutra.” “観自在菩薩、深般若波羅蜜多を行ずる kanjizaibosatsu、gyoujin hannyaharamita ” 45 minutes later, huge paper which was 1.1 meters long and 3.6 meters wide was filled with indigo blue letters.

“Indigo blue colour creates a subtle and soft finish.”, she described. She used Aizumi (indigo blue ink) which indigo blue colour is hardened by kneading with a collagen glue. “Aizumi doesn’t easily blur on paper and suits dignified characters,” she said.

Aizumi is produced as a byproduct of indigo dying process. It was used for Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) and Ema (a votive wooden tablet) in Edo era(17-19th century). After indigo dye production moved into decline through modernization and the spread of the chemical dye, aizumi almost disappeared as well.

It was only 4 years ago that aizumi was commercialized by “Aiirokobo”, a indigo products retailer in Japan. They also plan to develop new products with aizumi, such as a fountain pen or a dip pen.