Few botanicals are as captivating as Japanese Indigo. Famous for the brilliantly blue dye made from its foliage, the plant is also prized for its powerful anti-inflammatory anti-bacterial benefits for the skin. It holds a rarified place in Japanese culture because of its long history and symbolism. Despite its familiar hue and distinguished heritage, not many are familiar with the flowers that burst forth each year just before harvest.
“...they are a rare sight to all but those tending the fields.”
Called “phantom flowers” because they bloom and are harvested so quickly, they are a rare sight to all but those tending the fields. (These pictures are from the family farm that provides the Indigo extract for our collection). After Japan’s rainy season, the sprawling Yoshino River floods the Tokushima region’s fields, supplying the soil with minerals and water. This annual flooding creates ideal conditions for Japanese Indigo, or Polygonum Tinctorum, to thrive. Deep green fields of Indigo were once a common sight in this area, which was the center of natural Indigo dyeing centuries ago. However as synthetic blue dyes became more popular, many Indigo farms closed and only a few remain today.
The richest Indigo hues come from plants that have just flowered, because that’s when they are most fertile and contain the most actives. Indigo farmers work late into the night to harvest them to ensure they attain the flowers at their peak and produce the deepest, purest blues. Because so few Indigo fields remain, and most are tucked away in rural valleys far from roadways or cities, even most Japanese have never seen the elusive blooms.
As Japanese Indigo fields become fewer and farther between, these flowers may one day become a lost treasure. However, the incredible dedication of our Indigo growers keeps this beautiful tradition alive. We’re honored to be able to share and celebrate Indigo’s beauty, in all its forms, with our dear friends.