WATARI NO FUGURO  Handicrafts for the Revival of Wataricho

On March 11, 2011, Wataricho, a small castle town in southern Miyagi Prefecture, was struck by the most powerful known earthquake ever to hit Japan.  The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami which swept across 47% of the town and devastated its entire coastal area.  It claimed the lives of over three hundred people.  Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed.  FUGURO are handicrafts created by WATALIS, a group of women who gathered in the wake of the disaster to sustain themselves through their hardship and to initiate community cooperation.  The project was conceived when kimono shop owners in the area who could no longer continue their business provided us with their fabric.  As the project became known, donations of kimono fabric have come from throughout Japan.


There was once a custom in Wataricho to express one’s appreciation by offering small gifts in bags made from leftover kimono fabric.  FUGURO simply means “bag”, pronounced in the area’s dialect, and WATALIS uses this term not only for the articles we create but also to revive the spirit of this charming tradition and to impart a new sense of social support.  We draw inspiration from many sources, such as from archival material and also from senior citizens who have handicraft skills now almost forgotten.  Different types of fabric and textiles from other countries nurture our creative soul and enhance our imagination.  In the face of many challenges, WATALIS hopes to foster the recovery and development of our town by focusing on handicraft making as a livelihood activity.

Our hometown Wataricho

Wataricho has a long history, its name first appearing in historical documents of the 8th century.  Since 1602 it has been associated with the illustrious Date clan.  The town’s mild climate was ideal for floriculture and fruit farming, and it was especially famous for its strawberry cultivation.  The coastal area prospered as a port town, and its beautiful ocean was known for its abundance of seafood that supported a thriving fishing industry.  The earthquake destroyed these major sources of livelihood and deeply affected the lives of so many of its citizens.  Our rich heritage and culture was threatened.  Most distressing was the loss of community ties.

Our group WATALIS

When people gather and work together for a common cause, there will be mutual support.  Our handwork project was launched for this vital and urgent purpose.  It was an ambitious plan but one that led to the cooperation of many to create beautiful items.  At a venue to introduce craftwork made in the northern areas of Japan after the earthquake, our bags were selected as among the finest.  Our items are now sold at major stores and at handicraft events.  Each bag is unique and versatile, and can be a stylish fashion item or a useful pouch to store essentials.  We also produce ornamental charms hand stitched in the shape of strawberries, a symbol of our town, as an expression of our appreciation for the assistance we received, and to show our resolve for regenerating our town.


The FUGURO mark is a traditional Japanese motif, the Takarabukuro (treasure bag), which symbolizes the safekeeping of precious things.  The drawstrings express the spirit of togetherness, of connecting hearts.  WATALIS, the name of the project group, is a coined word combining the town of Wataricho and “talisman”.  It was devised with our hopes for the protective powers of talismans to help us forge a way forward.  By giving new shape to a good and old custom we also wish to express our gratitude for the generosity of the many who have contributed towards our effort.