Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu in Japanese) is an embroidery technique that goes back more than one thousand years. In its early stages Japanese Embroidery was only used for decorating items used during religious ceremonies. Over time, as shishu developed its own unique Japanese qualities and characteristics, it took on a more artistic purpose. According to historians, from the early Heian Period Japanese embroidery was primarily used for decorating the costumes of the Ladies of the Court. During these early stages, shishu was exclusively available to this very select group; only the highest ranks of society could afford such costly work. However, after a “thousand-year sleep”, this cultural heritage, the fruit of countless predecessors, is now available to a wider audience.