Tsubouchi Towel Inc. is established in 1928 in Imabari city in Shikoku island, they are one of Japan’s oldest towelling manufacturers. For a number of years they suspended the production but being passionate about our business and wanting to produce the very best original towels, in 2001 they launched our flagship brand "plantia" specialising in organic cotton towelling products.
In 1993, they started to use organic cotton yarn and joined NOC (Nippon Organic Cotton Marketing Organization). Started full-scale supply of organic cotton yarn since then.
The materials and production methods are completely organic and we select the washing and weaving methods that they believe to be the best for each product.
Starting with a piece of raw cotton, a traditional shuttle loom is used for weaving the towels. For the finishing wash, which affects the texture, we use a technique that is as natural as possible using just soap and enzymes.
Shuttle loom’ for loose weaving
The shuttle loom, which has been around for more than 50 years, can only weave about 30m of towel fabric in a day. There are only about 50 of these looms in Imabari and they are like antiques but the old-fashioned structure has hidden advantages for weaving. Compared with modern looms that weave at high speed, shuttle looms weave at a much slower speed so the grain of the fabric is not weaved too tightly, giving a loose finish. Taking time over the weaving gives the towels a pleasant texture and makes them absorbent.
Imabari is proud of its 120-year history of producing towels and in recent years, the shuttle loom, which has been used here for a long time, has been replaced by an efficient loom that can weave a few hundred metres of cloth in a day. But increasing the speed of the weaving means an increased load on the pile and the amount of glue used in the pile inevitably increases too. There seems to be a trade-off between the speed at which the towel fabric is weaved and the texture of the finish.
The towel fabric made by Tsubouchi Towel is finished at a leisurely pace using a rare loom with not too much load on the pile. It takes time and effort but this is what makes a good weave.
‘Enzyme wash’ for bringing out the softness of the cotton
The soft and pleasant finish of the towels made by Tsubouchi Towel is due to the weave and one other important factor – the wash. The glue used for weaving the pile is cleaned off with a washing process that affects the quality of the towel. The method used for washing is key.
We use natural starch paste for the glue. The unique method used to remove the glue is a careful washing process that takes time using many enzymes to give a soft finish.
The fabric is kept loose during weaving and the washing process is slow. If the capacity of the washing drum is 60kg then the amount of fabric put in is about 15kg. The texture is greatly improved by washing in plenty of water so the fabric can move around freely.
Drying is carried out in a short time to suppress damage to the yarn. The weaving, washing and drying are consistently slow. By minimizing damage to the pile throughout the whole process, we make towels that are soft and superior in terms of breathability and absorbency.