The pine tree, or matsu, was loved by Samurai warriors. They viewed the evergreen tree as a symbol of everlasting prosperity. The tradition pattern known as matsuba, or pine tree needles, is used extensively as a motif in Japanese arts and fashion. The pattern is believed to protect the wearer from evil. Another symbol of prosperity in Japan are the deep blue fabrics dyed with Indigo dye, some of which date back over a thousand years. This is why we love using the pine needle on the deep blue Indigo Matsu bow ties and neckties by Olaf Olsson. It reminds the wearer to have strength and patience.

Check out our Pinterest board on Matsuba

Noun: 松 (matsu) - pine tree
Verb: 待つ (matsu) - to wait

The Pine Tree in Japan

In Japan the pine tree, or matsu, holds great meaning. It is associated with masculinity and power, as well as longevity, youth, and virtue. Ancient Japanese beliefs suggested pine trees were the path to ascendance. Some ancient Shinto beliefs say that the gods reside in giant old pine trees on the top of volcanic mountains, after ascending to the heavens on these pine trees. The word for “pine tree” in Japanese “matsu” which in some translations can mean “waiting for the soul of a god to descend from Heaven.” Maybe one day you will ascend to the heavens as a god while wearing a Indigo Matsu bow tie or necktie from Olaf Olsson that is adorned with the traditional pine needle motif.

The pine tree can be seen as an important symbol all over Japan. They are often used to mark the boundaries around temples and shrines. Pine trees are associated with New Years and the Japanese will often hang a bundle of pine twigs known as a Kado matsu, or gate pine, on their doors to celebrate the New Year. This is meant to encourage receiving a blessing from the gods. Since pine trees can live for hundreds of years they are often a popular choice for use in the art of bonsai. Because of the pine trees association with strength and masculinity, Samurai warriors often used pine trees and branches as a popular choice of decoration for their armor and katana.

The history of indigo dyeing in Japan

Indigo dyeing in Japan, or Aizome, dates back to the 10th century. This type of dying is best known for its deep blue color, sometimes called Japanese Blue, and has been highly prized since ancient times. Because of laws restricting the lower classes from wearing silk during the Edo period in Japan, 1600 to 1868, the popularity of indigo dyeing exploded. In modern times, thanks mostly to synthetic Indigo dyes, you can now find indigo dyed garments everywhere from blue jeans to sweaters. The Indigo Matsu bow tie and necktie are made from imported fabric from Japan that is a deep indigo with a pine tree motif in light tan. This beautiful neckwear is highly reminiscent of the long history of Indigo dyeing in Japan.

Before synthetic Indigo dyes were perfected the only source of this amazing blue dye was a plant-based fermented process. Japanese Indigo, or Polygonum tinctorium, grows all over Japan. Shikoku Island and the Awa region are both major sources of indigo leaf production in Japan. The process of making Indigo dye is a magical process. And much like other products made using fermentation, such as Sake and Miso, it is also a living process. The ancient process of making Indigo dye includes the following steps. Harvesting indigo plants, bundling leaves using stems as ties, soaking and fermenting for 24 hours, adding lime, a twenty minute beating/mixing process, collecting the paste, and finally storing the paste in vats. These naturally produced vats of dye can be keep for years.

The Indigo Matsu Bow Tie and Necktie

Our Indigo Matsu neckwear is handmade in the USA from imported heavy weight cotton printed with a traditional Japanese pine needle pattern. It is a deep indigo blue with light tan pine needles printed in a random pattern. The fabric is 100% cotton dobby from Japan. The necktie is 2.5” wide and the bow tie is a batwing style with flat ends that are 2” at their widest point.

Check out our Pinterest Board Matsuba

December 18, 2016 — Olaf Olsson