If you are reading this you are hopefully intrigued, and if you have gotten this far, maybe you'll read a bit further. (inspired by Shawshank Redemption)
It's no secret that I am enamored by Japanese beauties when they are in the form of 1960s bromides attached to yukata fabric bolts. In fact, I've become a avid collector of these cards and the cloth they adorn. This past month, I picked up a very intriguing yukata bolt which ties 1800s German Beer Making, post-war Germany (with ties to Nazi Germany), post-war Japan, and the Japanese entertainment industry together. Intrigued? I hope so. Here is the quick "6 Degrees of Separation" of this story. In the 1800s, the Europeans, especially the Germans, were brilliant beer brewers and chemists. Friedrich Engelhorn was the son of a beer brewer in the German town of Mannheim. His early life experiences gave him the knack for metallurgy, business, and the gas industry. Eventually, while making and bottling gas to sell to pubs for lighting (of course), he also produced tons (literally) of coal tar that he didn't know what to do with. Along comes William Perkin from England who discovers that you can make brilliantly colored synthetic dies by chemically processing coal tar to get aniline. Real dies are expensive, synthetic dies not so much, so Friedrich establishes the well-known company Badische Anilin Soda Fabrik (BASF) to produce synthetic dies from all his excess coal tar. Success gets BASF in trouble though. After BASF merges with 5 other companies in the 1920s to form IG Farben, IG Farben goes on to produce Zyklon B for the Nazi Party which is used in gas chambers for the extreme mass-murder atrocities. The allies win, IG Farben is dissolved, but BASF remains to produce peaceful chemicals for the European Economy. Enter post-war Japan. In the 1960s, both Germany and Japan were enjoying an economic boom. BASF decides to open up a factory in Japan. And Japan's boom spreads to the textile industry, especially kimono and yukata. A need for a synthetic indigo die emerges to color the cotton fabric for the kimono and yukata. BASF is there to meet the demand and a partnership is born. The entertainment industry was also thriving in Japan during the 1960s so they helped promote and sell these brilliantly covered fabrics. Here is how I imagine the story going......the Japanese Women's Club Magazine (A very popular woman's magazine at the time) contacts the Tokyo Main Die Yukata Company to produce these yukata to help with sales of their magazine, the Tokyo Main Die Yukata Company buys the synthetic die from BASF, adorns their high-quality cotton with indigo-colored shrimp, asks a famous actress/singer to promote the product wearing samples of the fabric via a bromide card, secures the card to the fabric, packages it up, sends it to a local shop, puts a ￥980 price on it (about $22.00 at 2018 prices), sells it to their customer.....and 50 years later you have this beautifully crafted and packaged product that now resides in my collection. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week!