E-Book Review: TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels)


TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels), an e-book published by Airy Rhyme, Inc., is one of a series of e-books about traditional Japanese culture. The series aims to introduce traditional items and skills deeply rooted in Japan, and so far consists of three titles: TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels) , SHOYU (Japanese Soy Sauce) and WASHI (Japanese Paper). This series is called “Everyday Treasures of Japanese Slow Craft” (日本のスロークラフト」-日々の宝物―). Airy Rhyme explain ‘Slow Craft’ as follows: “The movement of ‘slow food’, originated in Italy, has spread worldwide and created new concepts such as ‘slow life’ and ‘slow work’. ‘Slow Craft’ represents fine items and foods existed for a long time and supported traditional handicrafts, lives and work of the people in different regions of Japan.”

This is the concept of the series:

“We would like to introduce to those of you who love hand-made items the existence of fine items traditionally handed from generation to generation in Japan. The way Japanese people create items is very precise, detailed and sophisticated. This series shows why and how they are produced and how they are used by introducing a Japanese traditional item, such as “Tenugui” (Japanese Hand Towels), “Shoyu” (Japanese Say Sauce), and “Washi” (Japanese Paper), in depth, respectively. This series features the traditional skills and methods passed on from generation to generation. In addition, it shows the process of each item is produced from diverse angles, including the spirit of such craftsmen creating them and the geographic background. We also strongly focused on the quality of the pictures. Many items are produced automatically and easily now, but we hope this would give you a good opportunity to learn more about Japanese fine slow crafts.”

Before being introduced to this book I didn’t even know the word ‘tenugi’ (手拭い), although I own a whole bunch of them and saw them everywhere I went whilst living in Japan. Tenugi are traditional cotton hand towels, designed in many different ways from traditional Edo period motifs through to modern popular fashion designs.


Traditionally, tenugi were dyed by hand, although nowadays they are of course mass-produced as popular souvenirs. The e-book carefully explains some of the dying techniques, including beautiful photos showing the dyeing and creation process.


The book also explains some of the uses of tenugi (both past and present) – everything from wash cloths to bandannas, covering tea cups to wrapping gifts and precious items.


Here, a man wears a tenugi on his head whilst working.

At only just over 130 pages, TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels) is a nice easy read, and a very digestible introduction to an interesting part of Japanese culture. I look forward to reading other books in the series!

Other upcoming e-books: NIHONSHU (Japanese Sake), NAMBU TETSUBIN (Iron Kettles) and YOSEGIZAIKU (Wooden Mosaic Crafts). Please visit Airy Rhyme’s website for more information about how to purchase and download e-books in the “Everyday Treasures of Japanese Slow Craft” series.

(All images courtesy of Airy Rhyme, Inc.)

2 thoughts on “E-Book Review: TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels)

  1. There is a lovely new Tenegui store on the main street of Inuyama that in addition to selling them also shows how they are made and they will demonstrate a number of uses for them. Wrapping paper, bottle holders, etc…


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