Tsurupika Works

"I cannot help shouting "dope!" towards clothes which are almost not quite wearable. I think it's a contemporary art!"

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

Tsurupika Works started making clothes in 2016 in Kichijoji, Tokyo. The owner of Tsurupika Works (will be called “TP” onwards) used to work in stage/film set production. Though he was used to making large wooden props, he had never made clothes before. So since TP started making clothes, it’s been a journey and he continues to strive to improve his skill and create funky designs.

And I just want to mention about the meaning of “tsurupika”. Tsurupika literally means smooth and shiny. But it also means smooth-shaven or hairless. TP says “I’ve always had a shaved head since young so having “tsurupika” as my brand name allow people see the link and find it funny, plus it’s easy to remember.”

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

I am especially intrigued by Tsurupika Works’ choice of materials. So in this article, I will be explaining about the materials he uses one by one along with his amazing work.


Saka-bukuro literally means “sake-bag”. It is used during the process of making sake.

Here is the flip through of sake making process*:


Steamed rice


Koji (rice mould)


A bowl/bucket


A tub

  1. First, you put all the ingredients in a bowl or bucket. And stir the mixture for days and wait to be fermented. And when you see bubbles popping from the mixture, it’s ready for the next step. The matured mixture is called “moromi”.

  2. Then you fill sakabukuro with moromi and place the filled sakabukuro into a special tub.

  3. And pile up the filled sakabukuro in the tub to let them squeeze each other to separate the liquid and solid. The residual in the sakabukuro is called “sake-kasu” also known as sake cake.

  4. And there you have it, basically, the squeezed out liquid is sake.

*obviously many important steps are skipped here

Nowadays, mostly the squeezing part is done with a high-pressure machine instead of using the tub. And if you want to know more about sake making, you could visit The Society of Nada Sake Research for detailed information. They have a great platform of glossary relating to sake making.

Traditionally, sakabukuro uses cotton as its material and is tanned with persimmon juice hence the colour. Persimmon juice contains tannin which has features such as waterproof, antiseptic and bug repellent. So it had been used for many other things not just for sakabukuro, for example, fishnet and ointment.

“At the core, I love the process of patchwork and collage. I think they suit my style.”

TP says “you certainly can make a perfect piece of clothes out of newly manufactured textile but it doesn’t appeal to me. I perceive coolness and kawaii towards clothes when the clothes is composed of pieces of old fabric and fabric scraps.”

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

Though, you will see more of his collage and patchwork pieces later, these sewing techniques really stands out with sakabukuro. Because of how deep the dye is and how much of the tan has faded in the course of making sake, every sakabukuro is unique in its colour and texture.

So when fabric pieces are selected from several sakabukuro to make a piece of clothes, it naturally creates a pattern while keeping the consistency of the mood sakabukuro provides.

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works


(Judo uniform)

The pieces that are made of judogi are my top favourite from Tsurupika Works. I didn’t even notice judogi had a variety of woven patterns until I saw his work. For example, the purse made with white judogi is really cute that you wouldn’t imagine this used to be rubbed vigorously on the floor, tugged at so hard and soaked in sweat, and yet, it remains in its beautiful shape.

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

As budo (Japanese traditional martial art) including judo has become one of the compulsory subjects at junior high school in Japan, apparently there are used judogi available for sale or donation every year, and actually even with just a quick search online, I found quite a number of them sold on many websites.

TP believes those used judogi should be reused while they are in good condition, so he only collects and upcycles judogi which are worn out and not in a reusable condition.


(Japanese traditional wrapping cloth)

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

This furoshiki is believed to have survived the bombing of Tokyo during WWII.

“I heard this furoshiki was made during the Meiji period (1868-1912) and used to belong to a gofukuya (kimono shop) in Tokyo. It was easy to figure out that it had survived the bombing of Tokyo.”

It would have been much easier to cut out the damaged part and replace with undamaged fabric and it would still have been “upcycling" because most of the furoshiki would have been kept. However, when he was looking at it and feeling it in his hands, he couldn’t stop imagining the journey the Furoshiki went through.

“Why did it get ripped? What role did it play in the gofukuya? Did it suffer through the war and post-war?”

He felt uncomfortable about cropping the part of its history because he realised that this is the part that speaks not only how well the owner of the furoshiki took care of it but also it let you dive into to its history. He then decided to keep the damaged part and do minimal amendment to prevent further damage.

Designs of furoshiki is endless. There are ones like above but also there are ones that are more colourful and with fun patterns such as the ones you see in TP's patchwork below.

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works


(hand towel)

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

Tenugui has a history of more than 1000 years and its use has been adjusting over the years. A large population of Japan started using tenugui when domestic production of cotton became widely available. What distinct tenugui to other towels are the shape and hems. Tenugui usually has long rectangle shape and no hem is allocated to let the fabric dry faster.

A part of the cause of fabulous design on tenugui is considered to be related to Kabuki, a traditional Japanese theatre. Some kabuki fans created tenugui with kabuki star’s name or logo printed on it and sent it to the kabuki star as a gift, which then began to be used for advertising kabuki stars and businesses. Those eye-catching designs you see in the images below are basically the result of advertising businesses. They would make it cool to attract people just like you make your own business cards appealing.

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

“When I’m making clothes with tenugui, it is almost like I’m painting a canvas.”

Somehow the different patterns and designs nicely blend in together on TP’s work and possibly the natural dye with persimmon also gives it a consistency.

All of his work is upcycling. But is TP an environmentalist? Not exactly. According to TP, he loves used items such as military uniforms since he was young. And just adding a bit of his taste to it lead him to upcycling and eco-friendly work style.

"Happiness" Do you see the little cherry blossom? Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

“I’m just doing what I love and as a result, what I’m making happens to be eco-friendly.”

He also makes use of scraps as much as he can. He makes clothes for himself by sewing them together to make a patchwork. Though initially they are not intended to be sold, turns out some of his followers like these versions better than others.

I totally support his mentality here because he is not forcing himself to do something good for the environment yet he gives us opportunities to widen our perspective on waste while he enjoys making clothes.

Photo courtesy of Tsurupika Works

Visit Tsurupika Works’s Instagram account to see more of his work. You could also go straight to “mercari” which is a Japanese online shopping website who mostly sells collectables and used items to purchase pieces by Tsurupika Works. It seems that, if you live outside of Japan the website leads you to their partner website called “Buyee” which lets you purchase from abroad. For better understanding, I urge you to check their guidelines.

Tsurupika Works

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hagedesu183/

mercari: https://www.mercari.com/jp/u/110109741/

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