Kaga textiles Kaga yuzen
Delicate Patterns Reflecting the Beauty of Nature
Vivid Refined Colors, Exceptional Craftsmanship
Kaga Yuzen is a style of dying established in the area around Kanagawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. It is renowned for its use of its five base colors or kaga-gosai; indigo, khaki, green, dark reddish purple, and deep red.
Kyoto Yuzen in contrast is known for its pale-blue monochrome colors and patterned designs with gold leaves and embroidery. Kaga Yuzen features classical deep tones centering on reddish colors and realistic pictorial designs of floral plants representing the natural beauty of Kanazawa.
Kaga Yuzen’s elegant and delicate patterns are enhanced by the distinctive gradation from the contoured edges to the center of each motif, as well as the mushi-kui painting technique literally meaning wormholes, which startlingly dares to depict flawed and dying leaves. The itome-nori dyeing technique is another important feature of Kaga Yūzen involving masking patterns with dye resistant glue, a tube is used to draw the designs which after dying stand out as beautiful white lines enhancing the effect of the whole design.
Kaga Yuzen was named after the founder of this dyeing technique, Yuzensai MIYAZAKI who began yuzen dyeing in Kyoto and spent his final years in Kanazawa. Under his mentorship and the patronage of the flourishing Kaga Domain administration Kaga Yuzen techniques rapidly developed. Since it was perfected in the fabulously wealthy samurai culture of Kaga, with a harvest yield of one million koku of rice (enough to feed one million people for one year) even today samurai tastes are still seen in typical Kaga Yuzen designs.
Kaga is a traditional production area of silk and hemp blessed with many rivers and waterways supplying the copious amounts of water required for the washing process of Yuzen dyeing. Scholars believe that ume-zome is an original form of
Kaga Yuzen dating back to around the mid-15th century.
Other dyeing techniques such as kenbo-zome, iro-e, and iro-e-mon, have also been handed down for generations in Kaga. Around the mid-17th century, all the dying techniques were gathered together and collectively known as Kaga-no-Okunizome. Then in the mid-Edo period, Yuzensai MIYAZAKI from Kyoto learned those techniques as a basis of his craft and established the current Kaga Yuzen.
Kaga Yuzen flourished under the patronage of the Kaga Domain and over time each dyeing technique became increasingly specialized. This rich sumptuous fabric tradition was carried into the modern era, but experienced a serious setback due to restrictive laws on luxury goods imposed before and after World War 2, but with the 300th anniversary of Yuzensai MIYAZAKI’s birth production is once more flourishing. Development has continued with further technical advances and the establishment of the Kaga Yuzen Dyeing Complex Cooperative, and finally Kaga Yuzen was designated as one of the National Traditional Crafts in 1975. Despite quicker and easier methods to produce designs with machinery, the Kaga Yuzen process still sticks to the old ways of handwork and many artists and craftsmen are active even today upholding the traditional techniques and maintaining the skills and knowledge needed to produce these stunningly beautiful works of fabric art.
General Production Process
- 1. Design
Within the Kaga Yuzen tradition artisans painstakingly create designs with new patterns and motifs, developing ideas according to their customer’s tastes, appearance and age, and depicting the beauty of nature in Kanazawa with picturesque patterns and colors.
- 2. Basting
Undyed fabrics are cut into Kimono sections such as the sleeves, collar and body, ready to baste. Fabrics are high quality silks such as Tango Chirimen from Kyoto, Hama Chirimen from Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture, and another kind from Ishikawa Prefecture.
- 3. Shita-e or underdrawing
Rough sketches are placed on a table with a glass cover and light is shone from the underside. The basted undyed fabric is laid on top, and the sketches transferred to the fabric as fine lines with a brush. Another technique is to draw rough sketches directly on undyed fabric by using Aobana (crushed dayflower juice) which disappears when washed in a later process. Artisans resolutely uphold tradition and stick to hand drawing in spite of it being a complex and time -consuming process.
- 4. Gluing
Using a special cylindrical tool, selected underdrawn lines are drawn with a type of dezuri (printing glue) called itome-nori. The glue is dye-resistant and after dying the lines will stand out in white, giving a sharp delineation to edges.
- 5. Undercoating
A coat of watery gojiru (soybean broth) or diluted funori glue is applied to the reverse of the fabrics, which are then dried by using heat from a fire. In this process, aobana is washed away and the itome-nori is more firmly attached to the fabric.
- 6, Coloring
A variety of dyes based on the traditional Kaga Gosai (five colors) are used to color the traditional designs and motifs. The artisan uses a paint brush and a small flat brush to apply color before steaming the fabric to fix the colors and also prevent the dyes soaking into the glue in the next process called Nakaume.
- 7. Nakaume (Pasting)
In preparation for the next process, Jizome, a glue made from glutinous rice is painted over the whole pattern to prevent the ground colors from seeping into the newly painted areas and keep colors fresh and vibrant.
- 8. Jizome or Hikizome (Ground Color)
Ground colors are applied to unpainted areas with a large flat brush. The technique will establish the keynotes of the entire kimono and to spread ground colors evenly requires many years of experience and much skill.
- 9. Main Steaming
Once the ground colors have dried, fabrics are put in a steaming box to swell the fibers and allow the dye to more thoroughly permeate into the fabric and for better fixing of the color.
- 10. Washing
Traditionally finished fabrics were washed in natural flowing river water to remove the glue and excess dye and this was famous as a signature event of Kanazawa called yuzen nagashi. Today, washing mostly takes place in man-made watercourses located in the Dyeing Complex.
- 11. Completion
After washing the fabrics are dried, steamed and pigments added to fine-tune the colors and complete the work of Kaga Yuzen. As you will have read this time-honored process is still mainly dependent on the skill and handwork of craftsmen, and each item is a testimony to their passion deeply imbued in the delicate colors, lines and techniques.
Where to Buy & More Information
Kaga-Yuzen Dento Sangyo Kaikan
ClosedWednesday(Open on holidays), Year-end and new year holidays