Japan is a fashion heaven where a huge number of clothing brands can be found. But more than simply being a shopping destination, the country also offers many interesting traditional activities like weaving. There are several weaving styles that originated from the country, but one of them defies the rules: Saori is a freestyle kind of weaving that can be enjoyed both as a form of art and an expression of individuality by creating something one of a kind.
Saori was founded by Misao Jo who was born in Osaka, Japan in 1913. Misao started weaving when she was in her late 50s; it gave her great pleasure to communicate with her inner self through weaving that she created Saori so more people can also experience the same.
The name “Saori” is a combination of “sa,” which means “individual dignity” in Zen terminology, and “ori,” which means “weaving.” Compared to other traditional forms of weaving, Saori is more meditative. Instead of focusing on the right process of making flawless patterns, it prioritizes creativity and self-expression. It doesn’t matter even if you have just touched a loom for the first time in your life. Actually, the less you know, the better. The main goal in Saori is to enjoy working with the loom and threads without overthinking or overplanning the results.
One of the main philosophies of Saori is to consider the difference between people and machines. Saori aims to create something personalized instead of the typical factory-produced items. Mistakes are also totally acceptable. In fact, these irregularities in patterns are part of its beauty and uniqueness.
For her contribution in the weaving industry, Misao Jo was honored by the Health and Welfare Minister, and later on, by the Prime Minister of Japan in the early ’90s. Saori also became widespread and is now recognized in more than 45 countries around the world.
Sadly, Misao Jo passed away peacefully in bed before her 105th birthday in 2018. But her third son, Kenzo Jo, who built the first Saori loom to aid her in weaving, continued his mother’s legacy.
In 2004, Kenzo built Saorinomori, which translates to “Saori Forest,” a place where all the weaving tools, especially the looms, are produced. Saori looms are different compared to the usual ones since they are small and portable, and mostly powered by foot.
Since the Saorinomori studio is literally located in the woods, the tranquil atmosphere attracts many people who want to develop their creativity while weaving in harmony with other members. The main headquarter in Izumi can easily be accessed from Kansai International Airport and from Shin-Osaka Station. They also have branches in Tokorozawa, Saitama and in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
Saorinomori offers two kinds of classes. The first is the One-Day Visitors’ Class which lasts for three to four hours. Everyone can weave regardless of age or gender. Groups with less than five members don’t need to make a reservation. The other class is called the Intensive Workshop. The class schedule is made by appointment and weavers can learn several cloth-making techniques.
To get an in-depth understanding of their philosophies, you can take a look at “Saori: Self-Innovation Through Free Weaving,” a book authored by Kenzo Jo and Misao Jo, which is also available on their online catalog.
Aside from purchasing the latest fashion trends in Japan, why not try Saori? It’s a good way to meet new friends and perhaps even start a new hobby. This freestyle way of hand weaving can be a memorable experience and it produces the most unique item created by the best designer: You!