Meibutsugire part 3 Donsu

Donsu , a damask satin. like kinran, comes in a great variety of patterns. It is a thick, lustrous fabric made of silk. It is not as dazzling as kinran, but rather has a quiet kind of beauty. The design is integrated into the ground and does not protrude from the surface of the cloth, as in other brocades.

The pre-dyed warp and weft threads are woven where one side of the cloth is warp faced and the other is weft faced and a design is made by reversing the face in the pattern areas.  Not all the meibutsugire fabrics caterogized as donsu have this weave structure. Some exceptions are woven with a twill ground. Since it is finely woven with strongly twisted dyed threads, the overall feel of the fabric is soft.. Chajin especially loved the quiet patterns and pliability of donsu, and for this reason, many chaire pouches have been made with it.

Some examples:

Araiso Donsu

Ariso donsu is an image of fish in the waves.  You can also see this motif in the ariso tana and on other tea utensils.


All of the examples above are called Iyosudare donsu.  The name comes from the rred blinds caled iyo sudare.  The design usually consists of stripes with various treasures against a checkeboard ground, or plum blossoms.  The original fabric had both treasures and blossoms in one continuous fabric, but you can see both designs separately.  This fabric was made into a shifuku for the chuko meibutsu chaire called “Sokushiki”


Hosokawa Donsu

Hosokawa donsu was owned by Hosokawa Sansai (1564-1645) who was one of Rikyu’s seven students.


Soami Donsu

Soami served the shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga in the Higashiyama period (1435 –1490) as a sort of curator (dobushu) of Yoshimasa’s collections.


Rikyu-bai Donsu

The name Rikyu-bai donsu actually comes from the similarity of the plum blossom motif with the flower known as Riky?-bai.  This cloth was used by an Edo period tea master to make a shifuku for a black ch?-natsume[lacquered tea-container] which bears Riky?’s signature in red lacquer on the inside of the lid; as a result this cloth is commonly, but mistakenly, understood to have been favored by Riky? (forgetting that Riky? died in 1592, while the Ching Dynasty was not founded until 1616).  The cloth itself, a similar textile (featuring a plum-blossom motif in ocher on a dark-blue background) is occasionally encountered under the name Riky-bai donsu. The true Riky?-bai donsu has a plum-blossom motif which fits into an oblong diamond (though this is not so obvious at a glance, since the design has five points rather than four), while the other (which is actually based upon the ori-dome, or woven-on cover, of the striped Iyo-sudare donsu (see above)has a plum-blossom which fits into a circle (thus it is shaped like a regular 5-pointed star).



Oribe Donsu

Oribe donsu is said to be in the taste of Furuta Oribe, a disciple of Rikyu.  On a deep, quiet blue ground, the light yellow-green waves stand out, with plum blossoms floating on them.  Oribe was very fond of plum blossoms as he used that motif in his designs for ceramics and other fabrics.

Sokun Donsu

This example of a geometric pattern is sometimes known as shippo tsunage, or interlocking seven treasures.  The treasure elements appear in varied form on a blue background in the center of the circle with plum blossoms. The name of this fabric comes from its original owner, Imai Sokun. Sokun, son of Imai Sogyu, was a tea master in the end of the 16th century begining of the 17th century.

Sumiyoshi Donsu

Sumiyoshi donsu is a geometric triangular design.  It was used as a pouch for a thick tea caddy called “Sumiyoshi Bunrin Chaire.”

Mozuya Donsu

It is said that Mozuya Soan, who was a merchant in Sakai, Osaka and Sen Rikyu’s daughter’s husband, possesed this fabric.

Sasasuru donsu

Designed with the auspicious pine-bamboo-plum motif  (shochikubai) symbols of long-life, nobility and hope). Sasazuru donsu has many different variations.

*Fabric photos courtesy of  Kitamura Tokusai Fukusaten Co., Ltd., Kyoto, Japan.via the now closed website Tea Hyakka..

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1 ping

    • Admin on October 15, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you for your message. The second photo could possibly be a kinran with gold thread, but it was labled donsu. When you receive your kobukusa from Tokusai you can look to see if there is gold metallic thread or gold colored silk. If it has metallic thread it is kinran. If only gold colored silk it is donsu.

    • VK2109 on October 6, 2019 at 7:34 am


    A very impressive site with wealth of knowledge. I wanted to ask if for the 2nd of the Iyosudare donsu you have posted, is it actually a Donsu or a Kinran. It has some gold brocade on it ?

    I have ordered one made by Kitamura tokusai online and the small tag only say “伊予すだれ ”
    without specification of Donsu/Kinran/Kanto and Meitbutsu
    unlike other Oribe Donsu i have..

    Thank you


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