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“Japan is a country filled with a mystical blue color.” Irish-born author Lafcadio Hearn was said to have admired Japan for its mystical blue color. He fell in love with the country in 1890, when the world was discovering a newly opened Japan. Indigo blue had come into common use by everyone in Japan, from townsfolk to samurai warriors, during the Edo Period (16th to 18th century) when commoners were discouraged from standing out.
This color, known as Japan blue, gradually faded from common use after the importation of synthetic indigo technology in 1880. Subsequently, there was a dramatic drop in domestic production of dyer’s knotweed (Polygonum tinctorum, which provides the raw dye for indigo), and this plant nearly disappeared during the 1970s.
The color “ai-iro,” as it’s called in Japan, is also used around the world. In the United States it was popularized as a dye for jeans and referred to as “indigo blue.” Originally the plant that provides the color was used to avoid snake bites, because of its medicinal and insect repellent properties.
(Via Japan for Sustainability)