• Ojiya-chijimiOpen or Close

    Chijimi is a hemp fabric with a cool sensation, coming from a region with heavy snowfall. It has an unusual crinkled surface, known as shibo. The fabric has high absorbency, is quick-drying, and breathes well. It is very comfortable and an ideal fabric for use in the hot and humid Japanese summer. The yarn comes from a natural ramie material called choma. With the strongly twisted weft, the shibo surface is created by crumpling the woven fabric in hot water.

    A hemp fabric called Echigo-jofu has been produced in the Uonuma region of Niigata Prefecture for well over 200 years. Since ancient times it has been famous for its superb quality, and an example tendered as tax in the mid-eighth century exists in the Shoso-in, in Nara. It is said that in the early Edo period, about 1670, one Horijiro Masatoshi moved to Ojiya from the Akashi domain in Harima, bringing the technique of twisting the weft to make shibo, and that chijimi was created by applying this to an existing hemp fabric. The feel and the pure white colour are made by snow-bleaching. The fabric has a high reputation as a material for katabira, a thin, light, single layer summer kimono. Ojiya-chijimi was designated the official material for court dress under the Shogunate. Its reputation meant that manufacturing spread widely among villages in the region. In the Tenmei era (1781-1788), some 200,000 tan of this fabric are said to have been produced annually in the Echigo region. One tan is the length required to produce one kimono, or approximately 38cm x 12.5m.

    Nowadays, the yarn is made by both traditional hand-spinning with choma ramie, and by machine-spinning. Fabrics are categorised under one of the following three designations: National Important Intangible Cultural Properties, or as Important Intangible Cultural Properties designated by Ojiya City, or again as Traditional Crafts designated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A fourth category is for anything other than those above. Criteria for designation under these categories are selection of yarns, spinning method, technique to make the splashed pattern called kasuri, and loom type.

    Suzuki Bokushi wrote in his Hokuetsu-seppu, of 1837,

    Make yarn and weave in the snowy season, wash with snow-melted water and expose on snow.

    Chijimi exists because of snow, and Echigo-chijimi is a masterpiece of collaboration between the human spirit and the elements.

    Snow in Uonuma is the mother of chijimi.

    Nishiwaki Shoten was first established as the wholesaler of chijimi and remains committed to it. This is a fabric that we understand and love. It is the foundation of our company.

  • Authentic Ojiya-chijimi and Echigo-jofu:
    Important Intangible Cultural Properties
  • Ojiya-tsumugi and Katakai-momenOpen or Close


    Ojiya-tsumugi is a kind of pongee produced in Ojiya. It first appeared in the mid-Edo period as a silk fabric technique developed from Ojiya-chijimi. It was designated a National Traditional Craft in 1975. Ojiya-tsumugi has a flexible feel against the skin and a lustrous look particular to silk. It is an excellent fabric deriving from a combination of Ojiya’s snowy climate and the warmth of human hands. Using hand-spun yarn of douppion silk and floss silk, the fabric is carefully woven on a kasuri-patterned weft. The wefts are individually hand-dyed using a technique called surikomi, or tsuki-kasuri. The overall pattern is created when the warp and weft are woven together. So-yoko-kasuri, or all-weft kasuri, is a fabric where the pattern is made by the kasuri-dyed weft alone, which is representative of Ojiya-tsumugi.


    Katakai-momen is a cotton fabric woven in Katakai town, and was invented in the 1940s under the supervision of Soetsu Yanagi, as a part of his Mingei Movement. This is a woven fabric intended less for the pleasure of the eyes, than to demonstrate the idea of ‘the beauty of usefulness’ in daily-life items. It features a single yarn, and the fabric is highly durable. The more it is worn, the softer it becomes, so as to fit the wearer’s body. Wearers appreciate the special textures of Katakai-momen.

  • Echigo Region: WeavesOpen or Close


    Honshiozawa is a silk fabric with a unique crinkled surface known as shibo. It imparts a cool sensation, and is best worn unlined. Silk yarn is used for both warp and weft. The shibo effect is created when a twisted weft shrinks as the woven fabric is crumped in hot water. The process causes the fabric to have a particularly cooling texture. Honshiozawa is also known as shiozawa-omeshi. A combination of various dense kasuri patterns gives it a defined and delicate visual effect. Honshiozawa was designated a National Traditional Craft in 1976.


    Shiozawa-tsumugi is a type of pongee using douppion raw silk for the warp and with a hand-spun floss-silk weft. The fabric is woven with kasuri yarn hand-tied and hand-dyed. Patterns are composed of various types of kasuri, such as very small ka-kasuri (mosquito kasuri), juji-kasuri (cross kasuri) and kikko-kasuri (tortoiseshell kasuri). These patterns have a uniquely sober and elegant presence. The delicate, soft texture comes from the floss silk and the natural feel against the skin increases over time. Shiozawa-tsumugi was designated a National Traditional Craft in 1975.


    Tochio-tsumugi is said to have the longest history of any Echigo pongee. Legend has it that it originates when the wife of a son of the eleventh emperor, Suinin, followed her husband here on his nomination as Kuni-no-miyatsuko, or regional administrator. She gathered wild silk cocoons from Mt Sumon and taught the villagers how to weave. Tochio-tsumugi can be made either by hand or machine. It uses a hand-reeled douppion silk yarn called tamaito, and a feature of Tochio-tsumugi is to use tsumugi yarn for both weft and warp. The special yarn necessitates an extremely complex weaving technique.

  • Tokamachi Region: Weaves and DyesOpen or Close

    Tokamachi Region

    The Tokamachi region has always adapted to changing trends, developing new products. There is a sayings, ‘From Echigo cloth to Echigo-chijimi’, ‘from hemp to silk ’, and ‘from summer clothes to clothes for all seasons’. Piece-dyeing technology was also introduced here. Repeated innovations in technique and marketing have made the Tokamachi region a catalogue of textile producing areas, each with its highly specialised type of weaving and dyeing.

    Tokamachi Weave

    Tokamachi has one of the highest snowfalls in Japan and has long been a centre of hemp fabric production. An old verse contains the line that, ‘Snow is the mother of chijimi’. The humid climate and intensity of snow do indeed make Tokamachi a perfect environment for the production of this Echigo chijimi. It is known that from ancient times craftspeople in the Matsunoyama and Matsudai districts specialised in thread-making and weaving, but in the early 19th century production shifted to silk weave. Later, crinkled silk began to take over. The Taisho Era (1912-26) saw the invention of Akashi-chijimi, produceable in white bolts all year round, which soon dominated for summer kimonos. Tokamachi innovated aggressively in silk weaves. In 1982, Tokamachi-kasuri and Akashi-chijimi were designated National Traditional Crafts.


    Yuzen dyeing was perfected in Kyoto the late 17th century by Miyazaki Yuzensai. It requires a highly technical process and is one of the world’s most recognised dyeing techniques, expressing the beauty of nature delicately, yet magnificently. Yuzen has flourished in the Tokamachi region, originally a weave production centre, since the 1960s. Tokamachi is now a total production centre for weaves and dyes. In the 1950s Tokamachi lacked craftspeople and technical facilities, but pioneers strove to master the difficult yuzen technique and through trial and error developed a type of yuzen specific to Tokamachi. Learning from tradition while also innovating continues to define Tokamachi-yuzen.

  • Shinano Region: WeavesOpen or Close

    Shinshu and Shinano have long been prosperous through sericulture and in the early Edo Period many regional domains put additional energies into silk production. It is said that tsumugi originates in home-produced kimonos made from waste cocoons. At any rate, Shinshu and Shinano developed into major production centres for tsumugi, which is the generic name for all weaves produced in today’s Nagano Prefecture, so that weaves of various types come under this designation.


    Ueda tsumugi is a kind of pongee with a raw-silk warp and a floss silk tsumugi yarn weft. It is very durable and said to be able to see out three changes of hakkake, or the lining cloth used around cuffs and hems. For this reason, it is sometimes called miurajima (three-lining stripes). It is difficult to provide a single definition of Ueda-tsumugi, as it uses a range of colours, patterns and dyeing processes. It is thus a tsumugi that allows free expressions in plant and chemical dyes, and can be hand or machine woven.


    Ina-tsumugi is a kind of pongee produced in the Ina Valley. Dyeing plants are harvested exclusively here, and more than fifteen types can be found in the valley, offering a range of beautiful natural colours. For example, dyes are made from the barks of the apple, yew, Japanese larch, wild cherry, and Japanese white birch trees, and from the nuts of the Japanese green alder, acorn and walnut. There are several variations in the combination of warp and weft, but characteristic of Ina-tsumugi are its soft, delicate colour derived from plant-dyeing and its airy volume which is owing to the hand-spun weft of douppion silk or floss silk yarn.


    Iida-tsumugi is a kind of pongee using untwisted yarn for both warp and weft. The warp is woven loose in a manner called ‘weaving the air in’. Untwisted yarn is smooth, necessitating great dexterity. A soft and airy touch, together with plant-dyed colours gives this pongee a warm feeling.

  • Okinawa: Weaves and DyesOpen or Close

    Okinawan Weaves

    The Okinawan (or Ryukyuan) archipelago is dotted with traditional weaves. Each possesses its own unique characteristics derived from the rich, southern climate, along with specific historical, cultural and geographical factors. Every island and region has fostered its own particular techniques, though all have in common a kind of kasuri, or splashed pattern. The technique originates in South-east Asian ikat, which was brought by traders using the Japan Current, and this combined with Chinese influence and unique Ryukyuan traits to give a harmonious hybridity also to be seen in the architectural style of Shuri Castle. Particular yarn-making and dyeing techniques use plants indigenous to the Ryukyuan islands. However, the islands of Miyako and Yaeyama have a dark side to their histories. Textiles produced there were used to pay the exorbitant tax imposed by the Japanese Satsuma domain. The Second World War deprived these islands of their previous peaceful routines, and numerous tangible and intangible cultural heritages were lost. Yet craftspeople continued to work throughout those difficult times, even when lacking sufficient tools and materials, and finally managed to restore many traditions of textile weaving and dyeing. A passion for textile creation has survived to this day, and is still passed on from one generation to the next throughout the archipelago.

    Ryukyu Bingata

    Bingata dyed textiles were traditionally worn by upper-class women in the Ryukyu kingdom. Their main feature is strong colour appropriate to the southern climate. Bingata incorporates chintz technique brought from South-east Asia and India, and Chinese stencil dyeing. Ryukyan bingata has characteristically harmonious patterns and colours made by repeated stencilling and hand-printing a dye-resistant patterns in glue, and then removing the glue. Fabrics using different shades of indigo only are called ehgata.


    Shuri was a prosperous castle town of the Ryukyu kingdom where refined textiles were produced for nobles and samurai of the surrounding court. Fabrics are characterised by a technique of jacquard weave, called mon-ori, and a splashed pattern called kasuri. Particular weaves called hanakura-ori and roton-ori were produced in Shuri for the exclusive use of royal and noble families. The term Shuri-ori now covers all jacquard patterns and kasuri weaves in use at the time National Traditional Craft status was awarded in 1983.


    Basho-fu is woven with yarn made from a kind of banana plant called itobasho. Minute care has to be taken in cultivation, and it takes three years to grow a plant with sufficient fibre. Each plant yields only 20g, so 200 plants are needed to make sufficient basho-fu for one kimono. This precious fibre is made by various labour-intensive processes, including peeling the plant’s skin, boiling it in lye and isolating the fibres. The finished fabric is uniquely supple and smooth with a cool texture, metaphorically known as a ‘cicada’s robe’.

    After World War II, the efforts of Toshiko Taira - later designated a Living National Treasure – ensured that the technique of making basho-fu was revived. The fabric now is produced in Kijoka in Oogimi village, in north part of Okinawa’s main island.


    Miyako-jofu has been produced since ancient times on the island of Miyako, some 300km south-west of Okinawa’s main island. There is a record of ramie fabric being produced here as early as the 15th century, but it is believed that Miyako-jofu was perfected by Inaishi Toji in the 16th century.

    Together with authentic Ojiya-chijimi and Echigo-jofu, Miyako-jofu is a superb hemp fabric made from extremely fine hand-spun ramie yarn. It has a sad history because its highest-level technique was developed to meet the excessive controls and tax demands imposed by the Satsuma domain in the 17th century. It was a tribute fabric, used to pay tax from the Ryukyu court to Japan. Once in Japan it was distributed under the name of Satsuma-jofu.

    In the Taisho Era (1912-26), a particular kasuri technique using a type of loom called a shimebata, originally employed for Oshima-tsumugi, was introduced. From this came a dense, dark blue splashed pattern, using Ryukyu-ai (Assam indigo). Such a fabric was possible thanks to the high craft standards of people able to produce extremely fine yarn, and by the hot and humid climate. Miyako-jofu has a shiny quality, looking almost as if waxed. This predominant feature is created by a painstaking patting and tanning using starch glue called kinuta-uchi.

    Today we find both Miyako-jofu with minute indigo kasuri patterns made on the shimebata loom, and also the more traditional Miyako-jofu dating to before introduction of the shimebata and using plant-dye hand-tying kasuri techniques. The older type was designated National Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1978.

  • Kihachijo, Yoshino-kanto,
    Gunjo-tsumugi and Other Fabrics
    Open or Close


    The vivid golden-yellow, deep brown and jet black stripes and checks of Kihachijo use colours deriving from plants indigenous to Hachijo-jima island. The yellow is made by soaking yarn overnight in a dye made from the kariyasu plant (jointhead arthraxon), and then drying it in the morning. The process is repeated for 16 days and nights, after which the yarn is boiled in camellia and sakaki lye to fix a bright golden colour. The brown is made with a dye taken from madami (laurel) lye. The process is as with the yellow, but it takes exposure in the sun for as long as 40 days for the particular dark brown, known as tobi, to appear. The above indicates how much time and effort are required. In order to make the black, yarn is dyed with a liquid made from shin’i (chinquapin) bark, then fixed with local iron-rich mud. This produces a deep, serene jet-black.

    Weaves such as plain, twill, ichimatsu, maru-manako and mekago are mainly used, each of which has its own distinct woven pattern. A sample book known as Eikan-cho states that there were once 500 weaves, and at its peak, 1500 one-kimono-length bolts were produced annually. Today some 700 are made. However, demand far surpasses supply, and production is mostly pre-ordered.


    Yoshino-kanto is one of the best-known among fabrics which have been imported into Japan since ancient times, or kowatari. Tea masters cherished switches of this south-sea cloth as rarity, and used it for their shifuku, or small bag to hold a tea caddy. One story tells that the name Yoshino comes from when Haiya Joeki, a wealthy Kyoto merchant of the early Edo period, gave some of this fabric to a woman called Yoshino-tayu, a high-ranking courtesan of the Shimabara red-light district.

    Currently Chiharu Fujiyama is working on the revival of this cloth. She has been running a studio for 40 years, after serving an apprenticeship with Yoshitaka Yanagi, the great formulator and activist of the Mingei Movement. Fujiyama also experiments with other plant dyeing techniques to create unique fabrics of her own. In Yoshino-kanto, a float is woven onto the plain weave to create patterns of vertical and horizontal stripes in a manner resembling Sanada-himo. Raised figures become thicker by having twice as much yarn woven in. The float increases the shiny quality of the silk and makes the colours clearer. This results in a fabric possessing a startling beauty. Plain-weave only fabrics have a more sombre colour, but Yoshino-kanto’s use of the float gives it rhythm and colour contrast.


    Gunjō-tsumugi is a fabric woven from floss silk and produced in Gunjo-hachiman, Gifu Prefecture. Retaining the simplicity of tsumugi, this excellent and rare fabric is made on handlooms, and features novel colours and patterns produced using special dyeing methods.

    The long history of weaves in this region is said to date from when defeated soldiers of the Heike family came here fleeing the enemy in the 12th century. They spun yarn from wild silk and waste cocoons, and dyed them with grass roots and tree bark, weaving clothes for their own everyday use. The weave declined in later times, but through the efforts of Rikizo Munehiro, an agricultural settler, they have been restored.

    Munehiro Rikizo was the first person in the field of tsumugi to be designated a National Living Treasure. He revitalised a tradition on the point of extinction, and established a unique, viable technique. Adding to the original plant dyeing method, he invented dobonko-some, that is, dyeing yarn by osmosis, which made possible soft colours, shading and gradation. Yosuke Munehiro, Rikizo’s oldest son, has succeeded to the family business.

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