|Kanji, Kana & Pronunciation|
|(n) Dyeing with safflower|
Benibana-zome uses the dye extracted from the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) to produce a red color. Depending on the fabric dyed and the number of immersions, colors between pink and orange may be produced, but benibana-zome was most often used to dye a bright red for juban.
The red dye extracted from safflowers is known as carthamin. Most of the dye contained in the flower is actually yellow and to extract and concentrate the desired red dye, the flower is pounded, fermented, and then washed with successive changings of cold water to remove the yellow portion of the dye. The remainder (about 1% of the original dye) is exposed to an alkaline solution of potassium carbonate to produce the final red dye.
Benibana is a vegetable dye and as such is prone to fading over time and washings. It is notorious for not being dye fast when immersed in water and transferring to other fabrics when used as a lining and exposed to sweat or moisture. Despite its drawbacks, it enjoyed widespread use as a lining color and for dyeing juban before the introduction of synthetic reds from Europe. Today, it is useful in dating textiles.
Safflower was introduced into Japan from China, which received it via the Silk road from Egypt by way of India. Benibana is first mentioned in Japan in the Engishiki, completed in 927.The first recorded use of benibana as a textile dye in Japan occurred in the Muromachi Period.
Benibana-zome was widespread until the introduction of chemical dyes in the Meiji era. Benibana-zome continued to compete with chemical dyes up through Taisho but were almost completely supplanted by them by early Showa.
Today, benibana-zome is still used to dye tsumugi produced in Yamagata prefecture.