Kyo textiles

Kyo textiles Kyo yuzen

A medley of bright colors
in the natural and elegant world of Kyoto


What is Kyo textiles ?

Kyo textiles are dyed textiles made throughout the Kyoto prefecture that feature a wide range of vivid colors and a technique called yuzenmoyo that put pictorial designs of animals, nature and daily items.
The dyeing method is very unique as artisans put glue around the outlines of the patterns to prevent the color to run and to be mixed up with other outlines of detailed patterns. Since this traditional handwork is an intensive and expensive labor, another simplified technique has more recently become popular.
Besides Kyo textiles, another pattern dyeing style called Kaga textiles from the Ishikawa prefecture is also well known for its splendid five color palettes known as Kaga gosai, but Kaga textiles does not indulge itself in the rich embroidery and gold leaf decoration which is the big difference compared to the brighter colored Kyo textiles.
This splendid Kyo textile is a beautiful production by the elegant and sumptuous culture of Kyoto and it is popular not only in Japan but all over the world.


In the Edo period (1603-1868), a famous fan painter named Yuzensai MIYAZAKI established a new style of dyeing method called Kyo yuzen (Kyo textiles in Japanese). The transformation of pattern drawing technique on a folding fan is believed to be the origin of Kyo textiles.
Generally speaking, the history of dyeing dates back to the Nara period (710-794), at the dawn of Japan's unique culture, and since then it was continuously developed to another form of dyeing method like batik and resist dyeing.
In the early Muromachi period (1336-1573), luxurious and splendid sarasa ("chintz" in English) and impressive gold foil embroideries dyeing methods that built up the original dyeing culture of Kyoto were found and they began to establish themselves as a noteworthy region.
In the mid-Edo period, brilliantly colorful and pictorial kimono gained popularity among townspeople, and yuzen dyeing became a huge trend. It is believed that, in those days, the different dyeing techniques and skills were gathered together and resulting in completing the current dyeing method.
The modern dyeing technique to produce a colored dying paste from chemical dye and dying paste was found in the Meiji period (1868-1912).
The colored dying paste was applied in a yuzen dyeing process for tracing designs from paper patterns. Jisuke HIROSE was a key innovator of this new technique, and he helped further advance of the art of yuzen dyeing.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Sketching The whole production process of Kyo textiles involves the collaboration of many specialized artisans with high craftsmanship and requires an extended period of time.
    At first, the design is made. A rough sketch designer draws and structures the patterns in the actual scale of the kimono. Then it will be transferred onto a roughly tacked kimon.
  2. 2. Starching The outlines of the design are drawn with a glue called itome-nori, used as a mask to prevent the penetration of dyes that will be applied in a later process. After the starching, the lines are washed out, and from this stage, the cloth is stretched out ready to receive a soybean broth called gojiru that will serve as a base coat. It is then immediately set to a fire to dry.
    This process helps to soak the glue into the fabric and ensures the dyes are applied more smoothly in a later stage.
  3. 3. Coloring The dyes are applied to the starched outline of the patterns on the cloth. The cloth is warmed up to dry by an electric heater or a charcoal brazier while the color is applied with brushes.
    The skills needed are akin to painting canvas and it can take years to master the technique of blending tones and colors.
  4. 4. Cover sizing In this process, starch or wax is applied to the colored patterns as a highly effective protection for the later step of ground dyeing done using a wide brush. Many techniques can be used such as shading or double dyeing.
    When the dying is completed on all the fabric, it is then steamed. All the surplus including the glue is washed out after steaming the fabric. There is then more washing, stretching and steam ironing and the cloth now becomes a smooth with a silky lustrous touch.
    The final washing (known as yuzen nagashi) is popular among townspeople because it used to be carried out in beautiful natural rivers such as the Kamogawa and Horikawa rivers.
  5. 5. Finishing As a finishing touch, decorations such as gold and platinum leaves, gold and silver dust, or rich embroidery are applied. Gold embellishing is a technique that consists in placing gold leaves and dust on a glued surface. Many other techniques have been developed, such as itome starching, stamp dyeing, and variations of gold and silver embossing like wide cut, slice, dust, bossing and rubbing.
    By adding embroidery, a bright and fine colored kimono becomes even more gorgeous and splendid.
    Although works of pattern dyeing and direct printing have extended the market these days, the traditions of delicate yuzen dyeing are preserved and are still popular especially for formal kimono such as furisode (long sleeved kimono for girls) and tomesode (short sleeved kimono for married women).

Leading Ateliers

Tomihiro hand-dyeing atelier

Tomihiro hand-dyeing atelier

Our fabric dyeing expert artisans create Kyoto textiles in the respect of traditions and techniques.
We wish to create Kyoto textiles that reflect Kyoto's beauty and sensitivity for modern-days individuals.

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Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

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