Japan is a fashion heaven where a huge number of clothing brands can be found. But the country also has a rich history in clothing manufacturing, with many weaving styles originating from Japan. A relatively recent style, Saori, defies weaving conventions by focusing on promoting an experience that is freestyle and individualistic. The result is a zen experience in weaving that can almost be considered a form of art.
Saori weaving was founded by Osakan Misao Jo. Born in 1913, Misao started weaving when she was in her late 50s. She felt that weaving helped function as a way to communicate with her inner self, so she developed Saori as a weaving style to help others reach the same experience.
The name “Saori” comes from a combination of “sa,” which means “individual dignity” in Zen terminology, and “ori,” which is the Japanese verb for “weaving.” Compared to other traditional forms of weaving, Saori is focused more on the meditative qualities of weaving. Instead of focusing on the active process of making flawless patterns, it prioritizes creativity and self-expression. It doesn’t require experience with weaving to enjoyment in the creative process. The main goal of Saori weaving is to enjoy working with the loom and threads without overthinking the results.
One of the main principles of Saori is to consider the difference between people and machines. With Saori weaving, the user will be creating something personalized for yourself rather than getting more conventional factory-produced clothing. Mistakes are accepted as part of the process since each participant in Saori is an individual. Flaws and irregularities in these patterns created help contribute to the beauty and uniqueness of the style.
In the early 1990s, Misao Jo was honored by the Health and Welfare Minister and even the Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, for her contributions in the weaving industry. Saori’s popularity spread and is now practiced in more than 45 countries around the world.
Misao Jo passed away in 2018 at the age of 104. Her third son, Kenzo Jo, who helped support Misao’s mission by building the first Saori loom, continues to promote his mother’s legacy.
In 2004, Kenzo established Saorinomori, or “The Saori Forest”, intended to be a place where all the weaving tools, especially the looms, are produced. Saori looms are different compared to traditional looms, since they are built to be small and portable, and mostly powered by foot.
The Saorinomori studio was constructed in a forest outside Osaka. The tranquil atmosphere attracts visitors who want to develop their creativity while weaving in harmony with others. The main location in Izumi city can easily be accessed from Kansai International Airport and from Shin-Osaka Station. Saorinomori also has 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, which is made by appointment in which weavers learn several cloth-making techniques.
To get an in-depth understanding of their philosophies, you can read the book authored by Misao and Kenzo Jo, “Saori: Self-Innovation Through Free Weaving,” which is available on their online catalog.
If you’re interested in fashion and have come to Japan to check out the latest trends, why not try Saori? It’s a good way to meet new friends and develop a new interest in weaving as a 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!