If you’re hunting for a gift for the Star Wars fan in your life, there are of course a zillion choices. And that’s the problem! But if the giftee in question has an affinity for things Japanese as well, then the choices get narrowed considerably.
And to my mind, in the realm of Japanese gifts for Star Wars fans, prime candidates are a line of made in Japan fabric cloths called tenugui that have lively and fun Star Wars themes that also incorporate various aspects of Japanese culture.
Aside from the cool factor, Japanese Star Wars tenugui cloths are quite light and compact when folded. Accordingly, you won’t pay much for shipping if you buy them online, and the so-called ‘free shipping’ that many sellers offer won’t mean inflated pricing for the tenugui itself to cover their own high shipping costs.
And of course in turn if you plan on sending a tenugui to someone, you won’t get dinged much for postage. And since these are flat, wrapping them for mailing is a cinch.
What is a tenugui?
I’ve answered that question at length in a separate post, in case you care to delve into the particulars-it’s a good read if you’re thinking about buying a tenugui and are curious about not just these designs, but the fabric as well.
Along with a long, rich history in Japan, tenugui cloths have certain distinct characteristics that you should be aware of before you make a purchase.
And you can pass along your new knowledge along with your gift, to give it some context and enhance its already considerable charm. Everyone loves a good story after all, and people who are into Japan and its culture will appreciate knowing more about these very Japanese textiles.
Though these fabrics were used as hand towels and headbands in the past, these days they are most often used as decor and look great on walls.
Having said that, these designs also do make great headwraps, similarly to how bandanas are used in the west, though the shape is a bit different, so please keep that in mind as well.
People who practice martial arts sometimes wear them during workouts, etc. and I’ve heard of folks who cover their heads with tenugui when they’re doing yard work.
A natural, lighthearted blend of cultural references
I did a double take when I first saw these star wars tenugui designs, and then of course it made perfect sense- George Lucas after all, has always cited Japanese cinema as a major influence. So this mashup is far from a random pairing.
As you might imagine, there’s a sense of irreverent fun running through these motifs. Some of the designs also incorporate classical kanji character sayings that when referenced in this context take on a fresh and lighthearted tone.
Here are some photos that I took myself of cool tenugui from this collection. All are made in Japan of 100% cotton with traditional dyeing methods and are officially licensed Star Wars products.
Click on a tenugui title above any of the Star Wars tenugui photos to see it on amazon.
It looks like these storm troopers mean business! So far, so normal. Look closely at the sky behind them though and this tenugui’s Japanese accents will come into sharper focus for you.
First of all, you might notice the waves on the right, which are stylized in a traditional way, almost appearing to have fingers, curled as if they’re beckoning you.
If you’re a Japanese textile aficionado, you might well also pick up on a reference to traditional fabric dyeing techniques in those clouds.
Look closely and those clouds are made up of a pattern that resembles shibori, Japanese tie-dye. Though it’s just a representation of that classic look and not the real thing of course, it adds a subtle, elegant reference for those in the know.
The fearsome looking cloud on the left looks like a ‘nyudogumo’ or thunderhead cloud, a fixture of Japanese summers. It’s got to be hot and humid out there-no wonder those storm troopers are peevish!
This tenugui features C3P0 in a philosophical mood, and who can blame him?
In this scene, after all, as he stands with R2D2, the sakura cherry blossoms are at their peak and petals are blowing in the breeze.
It’s just the sort of moment that over the centuries has inspired so many to wax poetically about the ephemeral beauty of life.
Cherry blossom viewing parties, known as hanami, are a fixture of early spring in Japan. They celebrate this transience with frivolity and fun along with food and drink served potluck style on blankets under the blossoms.
Darth Vader caught in a contemplative moment, hoping that a delicate cherry blossom petal will waft its way into his outstretched, gloved hand.
Four kanji characters, pronounced gyoku seki kon kou, are written in the traditional vertical style on the right.
They constitute a classical expression which refers to a mix of disparate elements that aren’t often seen together, and are valued differently. Rocks and jewelry, for example….or Darth Vader and cherry blossoms, in this case!
C3P0 and R2D2 are seen here indulging in one of the highlights of a trip to Japan-a hot spring bath. This one’s especially inviting, as it’s outdoors with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji in the fading light.
That’s a drawing of a ‘noren’ split curtain with the stylized mark of a public bath on it at the top of the tenugui, with steam coming out of it. You’ll see such noren curtains in front of onsen, as well as sento, which are public baths meant for everyday use.
Onsen like the one depicted are thought of as a special treat in that they’re often in scenic countryside locals away from the hustle and bustle of cities.
They’re also known for their spring water, which is often promoted as having medicinal properties, depending on the locale and the lore surrounding it.
These two are clearly up on public bath etiquette, as they’re taking care not to let their small bath towels get in the water! You can perch your towel on your head as R2D2’s doing.
And when you’re out of the bath, perhaps walking from one bath to another, your towel will likely come in handy, especially if you’re the modest type!
Darth Vader and Yoda square off with traditional Japanese waves.
The kanji characters written vertically are pronounced riki sen fun tou. that refers to a desire to fight with all your might, to give it all you’ve got.
This classical expression has a long and rich history and is most associated with battles in feudal times when there was little if any mercy shown to the vanquished and losers often didn’t have a chance to fight another day.
With the stakes so high in this epic clash between Darth Vader and Yoda, this sentiment seems entirely appropriate!
A triumphant Darth Vader emerging from a wall of flames. Above him is a classical expression that conveys a sense of being in high spirits, full of power.
The second of the four kanji characters literally means ‘fire’ and this design clearly takes its cue from that! The kanji characters are pronounced ki en ban jyou.
May the force be with you in your search for something (inter)stellar. Star Wars tenugui might be just what you’re after!
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Originally posted 2019-11-23 21:49:12.