Kaga textiles Photo:Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League

Kaga textiles Kaga yuzen

Delicate patterns reflecting the beauty of nature
Vivid refined colors - Exceptional craftsmanship


What is Kaga textiles ?

Kaga textiles (Kaga yuzen in Japanese) has a unique method of dyeing established around the city of Kanagawa, in the Ishikawa prefecture. The characteristic of this textile is the use of five underlying tones called kaga gosai: indigo, khaki, green, dark reddish purple, and deep red.
Kyoto textile is in contrast with Kaga textile as Kyoto textile has design patterns with gold leaves and embroidery while Kaga textile features classical deep tones centering on reddish colors and realistic pictorial designs of floral plants representing the natural beauty of Kanazawa.
Kaga textile'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 (literally "wormholes"), which startlingly dare to depict flawed and dying leaves. The itome nori dyeing technique is another important feature of Kaga textile involving creating patterns with dye resistant glue to draw designs which will be washed out after dyeing. This creates beautiful white lines that enhance the effect of the whole design.
Kaga textile was named after the founder of its dyeing technique, Yuzensai MIYAZAKI (1688-1703) who began yuzen dyeing in Kyoto and spent his final years in Kanazawa. Kaga textiles techniques rapidly developed under his mentorship and the patronage of its flourishing from Kaga domain. The typical Kaga textile still left the design featuring with samurai culture since it was preferred in the fabulously wealthy samurai culture of Kaga as they had a yield harvest of one million koku of rice (enough to feed one million people for one year).


Kaga textiles - History Photo: Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League

Kaga was originally a production region of silk and hemp blessed with several rivers and waterways supplying the copious amounts of water required for the washing process of yuzen dyeing.
Scholars believe that ume zome is the origin of Kaga textile dyeing method 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 textiles craft.
Kaga textiles flourished under the patronage of the Kaga domain and over the time each dyeing technique became increasingly specialized. This rich sumptuous fabric tradition was carried into the modern period, but experienced a serious setback due to restrictive laws on luxury goods imposed before and after World War II. However production flourishing once more after the 300th anniversary of Yuzensai MIYAZAKI's establishment. The development continued with further technical advances and the establishment of the Kaga textile Dyeing Complex Cooperative which led to Kaga textiles finally being registered as a National Traditional Craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1975.
Although despite of quicker and easier methods to produce designs with machinery is valued today, Kaga textile process still sticks to the traditional handwork and many artists and craftsmen are still upholding the traditional techniques and skills. Those traditions are kept to produce these stunningly beautiful fabric artworks.

General Production Process

Kaga textiles - General Production Process Photo: Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League

  1. 1. The design Artisans use the tradition of Kaga textile to design new patterns and motifs. This process is one of the most painstaking ones for the artisans as it requires to design picturesque patterns and colors to capture the beauty of the nature of Kanazawa within deep thought of the wearers, their generations and the looks of a piece.
  2. 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 the city of Nagahama, Shiga prefecture, and another kind from Ishikawa prefecture.
  3. 3. Rough sketching Rough sketches are placed on a glass covered table with lighting from the underside. The basted undyed fabric is laid on top, and the sketches transferred to the fabric in fine lines with a brush. Another technique is to draw rough sketches directly on undyed fabric aobana (dayflower sap) which disappears after washing in a later process. Artisans resolutely uphold tradition and stick to hand drawing in particular although it is a complex and time consuming procedure.
  4. 4. Gluing Using a special cylindrical tool, selected underdrawn lines are drawn with a type of 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 the edges.
  5. 5. Undercoating A coat of watery soybean broth (gojiru) or diluted funori glue is applied to the reverse side of the fabrics, which are then dried on a fire. In this process, aobana is washed away, and the itome nori is more firmly attached to the fabric.
  6. 6. Coloring A variety of dyes based on the traditional five colors of Kaga textiles (Kaga gosai) are used to color the 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 from soaking into the glue in the next process called nakaume.
  7. 7. Pasting In preparation for the next process jizome, a glue made from glutinous rice fills the whole patterns. It is to prevent the ground colors to seep into the newly painted areas and to keep the colors fresh and vibrant.
  8. 8. Ground Coloring Ground colors are applied to unpainted areas with a large flat brush. This technique will establish the keynotes of the entire kimono.
    Spreading ground colors evenly requires many years of experience and high skills.
  9. 9. Main steaming Once the ground colors have dried, fabrics are placed in a steaming box to swell the fibers and allow the dye to thoroughly permeate more into the fabric, which is to fix the color better.
  10. 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 artificial watercourses located in the dyeing complex.
  11. 11. Finishing After the fabric gets washed, it is passed on to drying and steaming steps completed with adding pigments to finely tune the colors.
    This time honored process is still handmade with traditional methods by artisans and every detail of the delicate colors, lines and shapes are deeply imbued with their passion.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kaga-Yuzen Dento Sangyo Kaikan

Kaga-Yuzen Dento Sangyo Kaikan

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