Favorites: Imabari Towel

Details: Watane Shusuori Face Towel

Origin: Kamakura Towel Shop (Japan)

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This is my $12 face towel. It is a famous “Imabari towel.”

The Imabari Brand

The “Imabari label” guarantees that it is a genuine Imabari towel produced in Ehime prefecture following incredibly strict standards of softness, color fastness, and absorbency. In particular, these towels are extremely absorbent! To pass the absorbency test – when placed in a bucket of water, a towel must self-submerge within 5 (!) seconds.

When you see this label, you know that the towel is made according to exacting standards and following a history of towel making that is over a century long.

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(Courtesy of Imabari Towel Japan.)

 Why I love it

It is supremely soft and indeed lives up to its reputation of absorbency. I also really like the size – fairly narrow but long. This is a common size in Japan but I have not seen it in the U.S. It is perfect for wrapping your hair, or drying your back.Despite being very absorbent, the towel is quite thin and lightweight. Once folded, I can easily hold it in the palm of my hand. Excellent for traveling!

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I want to tell you more about how luxurious this towel is, but first the story about buying this towel. I found this towel after a very long and hot day in Japan.

Saga of finding my way to that Kamakura towel shop

On a trip to Tokyo, I met a friend for lunch, and then was scheduled to meet another friend in Kamakura (about an hour away by train). Halfway through lunch, I noticed that I was running a little late. I pulled out my iPhone to tell my friend and saw that I had forgotten to charge it the night before.

Obstacle 1 – No battery power

Not wanting to disturb our lunch, I figured that I could charge the phone afterwards. Our lunch wrapped up about an hour late. I searched in my bags and found the charging cable but not the small block adapter to plug it directly into a wall socket.

Obstacle 2 – Poor packing skills

I ran to the nearest dollar store and found a blog adapter. Now, lots of places in the U.S. have publicly available power, like coffee shops. But this is Japan. I looked everywhere in the mall with the dollar store, but could not find a single wall plug. So I ran to the nearest Starbucks thinking that was my best bet.

Obstacle 3 – Stingy power supplies

But there were no sockets. For some reason, I thought about looking in the stairwell. I found a single socket, where I plugged in the phone. I had to be careful through because people were coming up and down the stairwell and I was pretty sure that I was not supposed to be charging my phone there. The phone did not turn on though.

Obstacle 4 – Forgot to read the fine print

At first I thought it was because the battery was so low. But then reading the fine print on the box, I saw that the adapter was incompatible with iPhones. At this point, I was almost 2 hours late to meet my friend. Thinking back, I should have just gone as quickly as possible to meet my friend. But I was not thinking straight at the time. It was summer and almost 100 degrees outside. I was tired and dehydrated. Blindly hoping that my friend would still be waiting for me, I got on the train to Kamakura where we were supposed to meet. Once I arrived, I visited a convenience store and bought a different charging unit. It worked and I was able to call my friend. Even though I was over 3 hours late, my friend had waited!

My sincere appreciation to him for his patience and generous understanding. Thank you!! You are a good friend.

Happy Ending – Finding my friend and my towel!

When we finally met up, it was evening but the sticky heat of the day lingered. We wandered into a beautiful towel shop. The interior was all natural wood with gentle indirect lighting. And all I could see were stacks and stacks of neatly folded fluffy towels.

Something like this… Such a soothing escape from the heat!

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(Courtesy of Imabari Towel Japan.)

After my long and hot day, it felt like an oasis. I could not stop myself from touching all the towels, pushing my hand into the folds and enjoying their unbelievable softness.

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As soon as I touched this towel, I knew I had to buy it!

Yes, I felt a bit silly spending $12 on a simple face towel. But I have been using it for 3 years now and it is still just as soft as when I bought it. I love it and every evening when I use it, I feel refreshed just like I did years ago.

History of Imabari Towels

When I bought this towel, I did not know the fame and history of Imabari towels. Imabari is a small city in the south of Japan in Ehime prefecture, and home to some of the world’s best towel producers. Manufacturers, part of the Shikoku Towel Industry Association Cooperative, follow strict standards.

Production of the towels began in 1894. The towel makers faced a long period of struggle, since they were unable to compete with inexpensive towels imported from overseas. However, Imabari makers remained committed to their standards and continued to improve the quality of their product. For yep… over 100 years!!

Eventually the towels gained recognition within Japan. In 2010, Imabari’s market share reached about 50% of Japan’s towel production. Recently, the towels have begun to attract attention overseas, winning several grand prizes at The New York Home Textiles Show.

Where to Buy

The towels are still a little hard to find online. However, there are places that sell them!

Of course, you can buy from Amazon, also Rakuten (like Japan’s Amazon).

Or, if you are interested, this is the exact towel that I own (though the page is in Japanese).

Want to Learn More?

Read more about the work and history of Imabari Towel Japan here. Also there is a nice overview of the story of these towels at Urbanara.

 

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2 thoughts on “Favorites: Imabari Towel

  1. Louie says:

    This has to be one of my favorite stories!!! @(^_^)@
    I wish I bought one of these towels when I was there!!!! So glad it proved to be such an amazing purchase!

    Like

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