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Japanese Traditional Textiles

Japanese textiles

Learn about Japanese textiles

Textiles are fabrics made by crossing warp and weft yarns.

Japanese textiles are a very profound craft, handmade one by one by craftsmen using traditional methods handed down from generation to generation.

Japanese textiles|History, production methods, and areas

Japanese textiles have a long history.

Since its birth in ancient times, its manufacturing methods have been handed down from generation to generation and have repeatedly developed in unique ways in various regions.

History of Textiles

The origin of Japanese textiles is not clearly known but weaving tools have been found at ruins from the late Jomon to Yayoi periods. However, it is believed that textiles already existed before that time.

At this time, textiles were mainly made from plants such as hemp, fabrics made of silk would have been exceptionally rare.

In the Nara period (710-794), more advanced weaving techniques were introduced from China, and high-quality silk fabrics began to be produced. However, these were worn only by a few upper-class people, and the common people mainly wore hemp fabrics.

Silk fabrics continued to evolve with the times, and by the Edo period (1603-1867), silk fabrics were being developed in various regions of Japan.

Since silk fabrics were produced all over the country, even warriors and wealthy merchants other than the upper class came to wear silk fabrics.

However, in order to prevent the value of silk from falling, the common people were forbidden to wear it, and they ended up wearing hemp or cotton garments.

Textile Manufacturing Methods

Textile production methods spread throughout Japan, and manufacturing processes changed to suit the climate and culture of each region. Here, we first explain the manufacturing methods used for textiles in Japan.


Tsumugi is a fabric made of silk or cotton.

It became popular in the Edo period (1603-1867) and gradually came to be treated as a luxury item. It is characterized by its strong durability.

Famous textile: Oshima tsumugi

100% silk. This textile is made mainly on Amami Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture and is one of the world’s three major textiles. It is said to take six months to a year to make one piece, and it is said to be durable for 150 to 200 years even when worn as daily wear.


Kasuri is a textile made from yarn dyed in two or more different colors. There are a number of techniques related to textile patterns, but kasuri is characterized by the partial dye-proofing treatment applied to the threads before weaving to create a unique blurred appearance.

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Famous textile: Kurume Kasuri

One of the three major kasuri fabrics in Japan. This textile has a long history dating back to the Edo period. The works produced by skilled craftsmen have many fans and are now used for items familiar to us in our daily lives other than kimonos.


Nishiki is a general term for silk fabrics woven with two or more colors of threads. It has been hand-woven using looms that were introduced to Japan from China at least 1,200 years ago. It has been considered luxurious since ancient times and is characterized by gorgeous patterns.

Famous textile: Nishijin-ori

Nishijin-ori is the general term for a traditional weaving technique practiced mainly in Kyoto (especially in the Nishijin area).

It uses multi-colored threads to create beautiful patterns.

Textile production area

There are 38 types of textiles designated as “traditional crafts” by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

All of them are well-known textiles, and all of them are made by methods that make the most of their regional characteristics and are comparable to each other. The following is an excerpt of some of them.

  • Yuki-tsumugi (Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures)
  • Kihachijo (Tokyo)
  • Hakataori (Fukuoka Prefecture)
  • Kumejima Tsumugi (Okinawa Prefecture)
  • Oumi-jofu (Shiga Prefecture)
  • Yumihama Kasuri (Shimane)
  • Shiozawa Tsumugi (Niigata)
  • Ushikubi Tsumugi (Ishikawa)

and 30 other types (in no particular order)

Items made of Japanese textiles

The most typical example is the kimono.

It could be said that the kimono culture has encouraged the development of textile culture.

Kimonos and obis are the culmination of all textile techniques, and there are kimono museums in Tokyo, Fukushima Prefecture, and Kyoto Prefecture.

In addition to kimonos, you can make all kinds of daily necessities out of cloth.


  • Clothing (kimonos, clothes, ties, hats, etc.)
  • Accessories (hair ornaments, earrings, etc.)
  • Ornaments (fabric for dolls and tapestry, etc.)
  • Small and miscellaneous goods (curtains, wallets, pen cases, coasters, cushions, etc.)

Japanese Kimono Culture

As mentioned above, the kimono is the most representative textile-based item.

During the Edo period, almost all Japanese citizens wore kimonos.

Unfortunately, however, it is rare to see people wearing kimonos in general in modern Japan.

In modern Japan, if you walk down the street wearing a kimono, people will think it is a hobby, an event, or that you are a rich person, etc. It is unlikely that you will be thought to be wearing it on a daily basis as everyday wear.


There is no definitive record of when the kimono culture died out and when ordinary Japanese began to wear western-style clothing, but it seems to have gradually disappeared from their living environment about 100 years ago due to the flow of western culture and the convenience of western clothing.

For women who are now in their 70s or older, it was a kind of custom when they were young to wear a well-tailored kimono as their wedding garment.

So, after grandmothers pass away, many kimonos are often found in the paulownia-wood chests that were used to store kimonos.

Unfortunately, grandchildren would never have a chance to wear them, so there is often little choice but to dispose of them or sell them to a vendor.

However, expensive kimonos and kimonos that we have a special attachment to are the ones we would like to keep.

The trouble with kimonos is that they take up a lot of space and are difficult to preserve.

In particular, expensive kimonos are made of silk, and silk kimonos are easily eaten by insects and quickly damaged. For this reason, one popular craft idea is to remake just a portion of the kimono and turn it into a purse, hair ornament, etc.

New Crafts Created from Old Kimonos

There is an attempt to remake kimono that are no longer worn or have holes in them and bring them to the world as new products.

Kimono patterns have traditional and uniquely Japanese stylistic beauty and are of interest to people overseas as well.



  • Cartonnage
  • Tablecloths
  • Patchwork
  • Cushion covers
  • Pierced earrings
  • Buttons
  • Tapestry
  • Hairpin materials

and many other items


Kimono-patterned accessories are often displayed at handmade markets around Japan. If you are interested, please stop by.


Each hand-woven textile is the culmination of a craftsman’s skills, and just by looking at such textiles, you can feel as if you have been touched by a powerful art form.

Weaving requires skills and specialized tools, and it is difficult for an amateur to start weaving from scratch in a workshop.

However, kimono remakes are easy to start even for beginners.

I dream that Japanese textiles will be seen by many people around the world