made in japan

These Japanese Lattice Towels Stay Soft and Absorbent, Even After Years of Use

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

This year’s Met Gala theme — Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons — got us thinking: There’s such great Japanese-made stuff worth knowing about (much of it that we’ve even written about before), so why not take the occasion to go really big on Japan? From the meticulously crafted to the intuitively designed to the wonderfully weird, welcome to Made in Japan Week on the Strategist.

Some Christmas in my 20s, my mom gifted me a set of four gray towels she’d gotten on sale at Macy’s. At the time, a set of four matching towels felt like opulence embodied, like receiving a half-gallon of prime Osetra and a magnum of unicorn tears. For the better part of a decade, those towels weathered benzoyl peroxide bleachings, endured weekly assaults at the no-frills wash-and-dry on my block, and once, sopped up an entire bottle of Robitussin from my mattress. In the pre-apocalyptic year before I turned 30, I quit my job. I got off Facebook. And I got new towels: The Japanese-made Lattice Towel from Rikumo. They’re painstakingly woven on antique looms in Imabari, which all sounds very fancy. But they could have been baked up by Christopher Kimball during his Test Kitchen days because when it gets down to drying, they’re outrageously functional.

Unlike Juicy tracksuits and bathrobes, the Lattice Towels aren’t made of terry cloth; instead, the weave structure is one of small indented pockets, not unlike a quilted paper towel. With terry cloth, the idea is that the cotton loops provide more surface area to absorb water than regular flat weaves; I’ve found they’re also prone to getting tough, ropy, and flat. The latticed texture has enhanced surface area — like how a waffle absorbs more syrup than a pancake — but because the individual fibers aren’t lifted and exposed, they aren’t pummeled in the wash. That has two upsides: First, the Lattice Towels still feel soft and luxe, and not sad and scratchy, wash after wash. And secondly, they keep their integrity and don’t look like doormats, even after years of wear.

Another unexpected upside to the waffled texture? It dries quicker, meaning your towel is less likely to smell musty after day one, even in shoe-box bathrooms with poor ventilation. (In my experience, Turkish bath towels, which also boast a flat weave instead of terry-cloth loops, enjoy a longer, damper, mildew-enabling phase.)

Be forewarned, the gridlike structure does fold in on itself a bit when laundered, so freshly washed towels look small. Like, “Shit, were these not supposed to be dried???” small. Don’t fret. They haven’t shrunk. Like an accordion or a slinky, the Lattice Towel readily expands come go time. And one final note: I would be remiss not to mention how beautiful the towels are, slung on a door, draped over a chair, or hanging on a towel bar as God intended. I have gray — a perfect deep, heathered tone, the color of ocean rocks drying in the sun, of clearing storm clouds, or perhaps most importantly, of vintage school-issued sweats. All of this to say: I paid $122 for a Japanese towel and never looked back.

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These Japanese Lattice Towels Stay Soft After Years of Use