What is a Tenugui?

Japanese Martial Arts Tenugui

What is a Tenugui?

A tenugui is a piece of dyed cotton cloth.


The History of the Tenugui

The tenugui was first used as an accessory for Shinto rituals during the Heian period (AD 794 – 1192).  It became popular during the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333). As cotton became more abundant, the tenugui became a staple in Japanese attire. It was commonly worn during the Edo period (1592 – 1868).  After the Meiji era (1868 – 1912), a dyeing technique called “Chusen” was engineered and used to create more an abundance of tenugui.


The tenugui is the perfect balance of function and artistry. During the Edo period, people created the tenugui-awase, or dyeing contest. People from around Japan displayed their beautiful and unique designs.


The tenugui that was given to the Japanese Martial Arts Center has 14 depictions of Judo. It is a Kamawanu hand-printed Chusen Tenugui.


Ann Arbor Japanese Martial Arts
Beautiful tenugui depicting Japanese Judo throws

How to Use a Tenugui

There are any uses to the tenugui.

  1. Martial artists sometimes wrap it around their heads to keep the sweat out of their eyes.

  2. In the kitchen, it can be used as a dishcloth.

  3. If a person wants to wrap a gift, the tenugui is an excellent substitute for wrapping paper.

  4. Instead of using a napkin or towel, the tenugui can be used. It gives a festive air, depending on the dyes or patterns.

  5. Depending on the tenugui, it can be used to decorate walls. At the Japanese Martial Arts Center, we’re going to frame ours and put it on the wall. The depictions of Judo throws are stunning!

Ann Arbor Martial Arts
The tenugui is its entirety!