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What is Tenugui?

Tenugui is a piece of cotton cloth measuring about 32cm by 92 cm, cut on both ends and dyed by hand. It originated in the Edo period as a cotton towel for ritual cleansing ceremonies, and became a fashionable, practical hand towel at the bathhouses. 

Over time they evolved into hand towels for every day use, displaying special designs and motifs. Worn as head scarfs for farm workers,  wrapping good luck charms for festivals, carrying items in a knotted bundle, or tearing strips off for first aid, the uses were endless. The more detailed and colourful Tenugui became decorative accessories worn by Kabuki actors in their costumes.

New dyeing techniques between the 19th and early 20th century encouraged more complex and detailed designs, and elevated its status beyond the everyday hand towel. These days the more functional Tenugui has been replaced with lightweight, absorbent terry cotton cloths for day-to-day cleaning, whereas the colourful designer-created fabrics from nugoo are shown off proudly as hand towels, scarfs and gift wrap. One piece of cotton Tenugui embodies the rich history of Japanese textile design.

This video shows the production process for making Tenugui for Nugoo.   


nugoo Tenugui can be used for many purposes. Not just as handtowels! For practical purposes, you can tie the cloth into a sling to carry your water bottle. For more decorative display, the beautiful designs can make excellent gift wrap, as our videos show. 

1 comment

  • Exquisite works!

    Char Dozier

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