The traditional Japanese embroidery, Nihon no Shishu, has been transmitted from Master to student solely by word of mouth for almost 1,600 years. It reached Japan from China, via Korea, in the period of the introduction of Buddhism (sixth century AD). Initially present only in artistic forms of religious inspiration, it then accompanied the evolution of Japanese costume, first being used to decorate the garments of the nobles of the Imperial court, the powerful feudal lords and the actors of the Noh theatre, and later those of the wealthy merchants and the world of the geishas. Even now, it is still present in the most important occasions of Japanese life, adorning ceremonial Kimonos and Obis. 

Hokusai Old Tiger


However, over time traditional Japanese embroidery, an extraordinary form of decoration for objects of the external world, went through a profound transformation to become Nui dô, “The Way of Embroidery”. The word Dô, which in Japanese means “Way”, reveals the true nature of this art form, which is extremely spiritual. Like other Japanese arts – such as calligraphy, the tea ceremony or that of incense, martial arts (judo and kendo), archery and ikebana – it is in fact essentially a way to freedom, a path towards knowledge of oneself, of the self...


The subjects of Nui dô are those characteristic of the Japanese aesthetic sensibility: animals, plants, water and mountains. These are represented on the fabric with the intention of creating a perfect, harmonious correspondence between the artist’s internal rhythm and the rhythm of external nature.

Tiger of Zodiac


In 1970 Iwao Saito, one of the great twentieth-century masters of this tradition, founded the community of Kurenai Kai in the city of Togane (Japan), where the professional embroiders are still trained to this day. Saito decided to ‘open up’ this art to the public, organising courses in several Japanese cities accompanied by the Master  Tamura Shuji, who was later recognised as the successor of Master Saito.


In 1976 the exhibitions in Japan began.


In 1980 Nui dô made its first appearance in the West during the exhibition of The Embroidery Guild of America in Dallas, Texas (USA). The exhibition was an enormous success, and the following year the first course ever organised outside Japan was held in the State of Michigan in the USA.


In 1989, Tamura Shuji and his wife Masa (daughter of Master Saito) founded the “Japanese Embroidery Center” (JEC) in Atlanta, Georgia (USA). The mission of the JEC is to spread the art of Nui dô,  maintaining its millenary embroidery techniques unaltered and training certified instructors in all the countries of the world.


In 1994 Tamura Shuji and his wife Masa were granted an audience by the Emperor and Empress of Japan in acknowledgement of  the cultural contribution made by the Atlanta Center.


In 2000 the first world exhibition was held in New Zealand.


There are now certified teacher all over the world, and since 2012 Italy too has an teacher qualified.



All the embroidered works were designed by the Atelier of Kurenai Kai and the JEC ©.
All rights riserved

Embroiderer : Stefania Iacomi