Sarashi is a white cotton fabric used everyday in Japan for many purposes. Traditionally woven with a 35cm (1’ 2”) width, this soft light fabric is very absorbent and dries quickly.
One of the most common uses is as Tenugui. Cut into approximately 90cm or 3 feet long, Tenugui is often dyed in patterns, printed with a family crest or company logo. It can be used as a bathroom hand towel, kitchen tea towel, head or neck bandana, or wrapping cloth for anything that fits.
If we look back at recent history, we see longer “Sarashi” was (and still is) used for summer kimono or even underwear. Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) or old yakuza movies often show men wrapping his stomach with white sarashi, or women wrapping it around her breasts. The soft fabric also served well as baby’s reusable diaper.
Now in 2020, Sarashi is the perfect fabric for masks!
Ukiyo-e by Toshusai Sharaku
Kabuki Actor Matsumoto Koshiro IV as the Fish Peddler Gorobei, wrapping Tenugui around his head.
Probably late 1880's or early 1890's.
Actor Ken Takakura in the film series, “Showa Zankyo-den” (1965-1972), wrapping his stomach with Sarashi