Wandering a Japanese toori' (street), one of the most distinctive features is the curious fabric panels suspended from the entrance to tea houses, shops, izakaya (informal pubs) and sento (public bath houses). These vertically suspended pieces of rectangular material or cloth, with openings cut from bottom to top, are called noren'.

Dating back to the Jmon period (14,000300 BC) noren were originally intended to protect households against the negative forces of nature. But more conventionally used by shops and restaurants to shield against sun, wind and dust or to signify if a shop was open or closed. The number of cloth pieces was also said to correspond favourably to the prosperity of the establishment.

In the medieval period, noren were made from indigo-dyed cloth with white kanji (Japanese letters) but today the size, material and pattern of noren varies greatly. In modern Japan, they often serve as an interesting decorative feature, painted in a distinguishable colour or crest.

Particularly noticeablenorenappear at the entrance to Japanesesento(public bath houses). Red Female, Blue male. Typically emblazoned with a character (hiragana) meaning hot water'.

However, much like Japan's culture,norenare typically covert in their representation and it takes a discerning passer-by to venture beyond seemingly closed curtains

The main photograph was captured in Ine-cho fishing village in Kyoto for the AW16 campaign, view the full collection here.Words and image of Japanese Baishinkaconfectionary shop by Kate Allchin, who travelled to Japan in the spring. Find her on Instagram @i_am_klea/

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