Isesaki traditional resist-dyed textiles Isesaki kasuri
Top-drawer textile woven with rate technique, trust and ties
Gunma woven cloth wowing Edo and Kyoto styles
Isesaki Kasuri refers to woven cloth produced in Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. Mainly seen in kimonos, this traditional textile has been highly regarded for its texture since ancient times. Today, Isesaki Kasuri ties and shop curtains (noren) are also in production. The more it is used, the more kasuri patterns and sheen show their characteristics, giving richer, profound color to the fabric.
Isesaki Kasuri is characterized by its dyeing techniques: Kukuri Kasuri, Itajime Kasuri Katagami Oshizomekako Kasuri, and it requires almost all the processes to be carried out manually. The well-endowed environment with terrains and well-drained ground has made Isesaki City prosperous in the sericultural industry for centuries. A piece of woven cloth unearthed from the Fuchina Tumulus, which is estimated to have been created during the 6th century, exemplifies the 1200-year history of woven textile. The Chronicles of Japan completed in 720 shows that a textile called Ashiginu was presented to the Imperial Court. Isesaki City has Shidori Shrine where the god of woven fabrics was enshrined and Akagi Shrine where the ancestors as weavers were enshrined, and their presence proves that the weaving industry invigorated the city.
In the early 18th century, the Edo Period, cities bristled with silk markets where silk textiles were treated as merchandise. Designs known as Isesaki Shima and Isesaki Futori established themselves as staple products. The growth in demand for woven fabrics boosted the number of farmers who engaged in weaving, and the growth accelerated with the advent of Motohataya (weaving shop in charge of the finishing process. Following the development of the weaving technique regarded as the origin of Isesaki Okasuri in 1847, Isesaki Kasuri increased its beauty through repeated refinements in the production process. In the late Meiji Period, mechanization led the production to mark the beginning of the golden age。After postwar reconstruction, Isesaki Kasuri was designated a traditional craft in 1975, and it has continued being recognized by vitue of “Day of Isesaki Meisen
General Production Process
- 1. Design
For Isesaki Kasuri, a design pattern is traced on special plotting paper, like a blueprint in terms of drawing a plan for a house. Designing includes calculating the quantity of threads, determining a finishing size, and checking the number of process steps and process details. Isesaki Kasuri design varies from craftsman to craftsman.
- 2. Preparation of threads (refinement, bleaching, sizing)
This process is of preparing to weave raw silk threads. Raw silk is boiled in hot water containing a dedicated solution to remove impurities, bringing out the beauty of raw silk. A sizing liquid is rubbed in refined silk threads.
- 3. Itokuri (thread feeding) and Seikei (warping)
Sized silk threads wind off to wooden spool for easier further processes according to the design determined at Process 1. Applied uniform tension, a thread is wound into a ball (yarn).
- 4. Preparation for dyeing (sumi-tsuke)
This process is preparatory to dyeing a thread wound yarn called Hedama. Sumi-tsuke is a process of putting marks on the threads for dyeing with a frame which measures the same width as finished woven cloth, in keeping with the design plotting paper.
- 5. Surikomi nassen
Surikomi nassen is a process of dyeing the threads thoroughly by pinching them with two nassen bars and rubbing a dye into them according to the marks. This process cannot be performed without subtle, proficient craftsmanship.
- 6. Shibari (tying)
This process is to dyeing the threads other than a dyed design pattern. A special tape is applied to dried threads after colors are dried to resist dyeing the design (color in Surikomi nassen) with a ground color. The tying process used to be done by a Kukuri Kasuri artisan and his or her family, which was a common sight in the region. Processes 1 through 6 are carried out by Kukuri Kasuri artisans, and further processes are by Kasuri-zome artisans.
- 7. Shinsen (dip dyeing)
Shinsen is a process of immersing the threads in hot water to let the dye of the design pattern impregnate. Ground color dyeing includes dipping the threads in a hot water dye and giving a gradual stir for an hour while heating the dye at constant temperature to produce evenness in dyeing. Washed to remove impurities, the dyed threads are dried and rubbed in with a sizing liquid.
- 8. Sizing and Pattern alignment
A tape applied at Process 6 is removed by a Kasuri-shibari artisan and then dried in the sun. The threads are dried with moderate tension to align kasuri patterns.
- 9. Hemaki (width adjustment)
Hemaki is a process of tailoring the width of a woven fabric to the size in the design drew at Process 1. The threads are set up on the frame and aligned and fixed with an exclusive tool.
- 10. Hikikomi (drawing threads)
Hikikomi is a process of setting the threads in the loom while drawing them through certain places.
- 11. Weaving
Raw silk threads are woven into a silk fabric. Weaving is an important process holding the key to exquisite perfection, which requires proficient skills of a weaver.
- 12. Readjustment
This process is capable of removing the sizing liquid out of woven Isesaki Kasuri and then steaming to straighten the cloth to the finishing size.
- 13. Checking
The readjusted woven fabric is checked by hand for design patterns, correct width and length in accordance with the initial design. This is a final process if the check finds no problems. Isesaki Kasuri undergoes several process steps, which are professionally handcrafted by respective expert traditional craftsmen in dyeing, weaving and finishing work.
Where to Buy & More Information
Isesaki Textile Center
ClosedSunday, Public holidays, 2nd-4th Saturday