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Tokyo 'sumi-e' artist brings new life to traditional art

From formal kimonos to fashion T-shirts, Japan's celebrated ink painting bridges eras

A haori jacket with a dragon design. Painting directly on clothes requires courage, as not a single stroke can be changed once it has been made. (Courtesy of Tamayo Samejima)

TOKYO -- Tamayo Samejima kneels on the ground, rubbing a stick of black sumi ink against a flat ink stone. She takes a brush and applies the ink in bold strokes over the white surface before her, moving from right to left, creating what looks at first glance like a work of abstract art.

With the deft strokes of a master sumi-e artist, Samejima quickly brings to life a magnificent crane. But she is painting not on washi paper -- the traditional support for sumi-e ink art -- but on a white kimono, the traditional wedding costume for young women.

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