Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk

Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk Murayama oshima tsumugi

Plain folk craft-style texture
created by slightly blurred patterns


What is Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk ?

Murayama oshima tsumugi is a silk textile produced in the region surrounding Musashi murayama in western Tokyo. This craft is produced from hand-spun threads pulled from dupioni silk and has kasuri patterns* woven with both warp and weft patterns. This textile is similar to Oshima tsumugi, which gets its name from where it is produced, Amami Oshima, an island that is part of Kagoshima prefecture. Also, Murayama kon gasuri, which is a cotton textile of kasuri patterns dyed with naturally fermented indigo, and Sunagawa futo-ori, a silk textile, were combined and developed into Murayama oshima tsumugi.
During dyeing, wooden boards with grooves carved along the design are used. Threads are set between the boards and fastened with bolts. Liquid dye is poured over the threads between the wooden boards and goes in the grooves that are carved in the boards. Only the threads in the grooves are dyed, while the rest of the silk remains white. If multiple colors are used, a rub and print dye method is used to layer the colors. The dyed threads are sorted according to the design layout and then woven. Murayama oshima tsumugi silk is woven with these processes, so that it has both the plain craft-style of slightly blurred kasuri patterns and the luster of the silk, which gives this craft its light and pleasant feel when worn.

*A kasuri pattern, also known as ikat, is precise patterning and images that result from a technique of wrapping fibers with thread in order to dye the specific parts of fabric.


Murayama oshima tsumugi is produced near the Sayama Hills of Musashino Plateau, where textile production is thought to have started during the Nara period (710–794). Cotton textiles with a striped pattern have been produced since the latter half of the 17th century. Murayama kon gasuri was first produced in the year 1800 and further developed throughout the 19th century. Then, during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the silk textile, Sunagawa futo-ori, started being produced. The techniques of Itajime senshoku (using wooden boards to apply pressure and dye threads) and tatemaki (weaving method) were brought from Isezaki, Gunma prefecture in 1919. The region surrounding Isezaki was known for being the most advanced textile production area at that time. Murayama oshima tsumugi was produced with the same techniques used for Murayama kon gasuri and Sunagawa futo-ori. Murayama oshima tsumugi became popular as daily wear and there was great demand during Japan's post-war period. However, production declined in the following years. In 1967, this craft was designated as one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Intangible Folk Cultural Properties and production techniques are still preserved today.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Production of the wooden boards The Itajime senshoku or wooden board dyeing method is used for this craft. Wooden boards are required to dye the threads in a kasuri pattern. The wooden boards are made from Japanese birch trees that are seventy to a hundred years old. Approximately one hundred fifty of them are required for dyeing the warp and weft. As the pattern becomes bigger in size, the amount of boards increases. An artisan carves grooves in the boards along the design. When the boards are layered and fastened, the dye goes in the grooves and the threads are dyed.
  2. 2. Refining and processing The threads are boiled in a pot to create the luster of raw silk, improving the texture and removing impurities such as glue. After the threads are boiled and refined, they are thoroughly washed and dried. This process makes the woven textile smooth and shiny.
  3. 3. Texture dyeing The base threads are dyed with plant-derived dyes, such as hematin made from the core of logwood, and have to be soaked in the dye for a long time. After the dye has permeated evenly and the color deepened, the threads are washed in water.
  4. 4. Warping The warp and the weft threads are sorted according to the length and number of the threads that are required for weaving. The length of the weft threads varies depending on the size of the pattern. The threads are divided into four different types, with varying levels of thickness and firmness.
  5. 5. Winding the threads around the board This is a preliminary process for the wooden board dyeing technique. The warp threads are wound around each board. After the threads have been wound around the board, they are layered with a wooden board in between. The threads have to be wound at an even width, without any gaps or overlap. The weft threads are lined up flatly by alternately placing them between the boards. This process is important since it determines the level of the quality of the woven textile.
  6. 6. Dyeing the threads The kasuri boards that are layered with the warp and the weft separately are fastened with bolts at 10~15t/㎡. The fastened boards are placed in the device for wooden board dyeing technique. Dye is thoroughly poured over the boards, using a ladle to make the dye permeate the threads and prevent irregular dyeing. This is difficult work that requires lots of experience because there is no room for error for the size of the kasuri patterns or the color of the threads, if the boards have not been fastened correctly.
  7. 7. Rubbing and printing The threads are dyed in one color using the wooden board dyeing technique. If the design requires multiple colors, the colors have to be layered. Firstly, the dyed kasuri threads are pulled into a bundle, divided into design parts, and tied to prevent the kasuri patterns appearing in the wrong places. Then, using bamboo or wooden spatulas which have cotton threads wound around them, dye liquid is rubbed into the threads. The threads are wedged between the two spatulas. Afterwards, the threads are steamed in a steam box to settle the colors.
  8. 8. Winding the threads The dyed kasuri threads are arranged into patterns. The warp threads are put through the reed of the loom with the base threads, while being adjusted along the patterns of the kasuri. This process requires great care so that the threads do not come out of position. The patterns lined sideways also have to be positioned precisely.
  9. 9. Weaving The warp and the weft threads are woven to produce fine kasuri patterns. It takes seven to ten days to weave a textile for a set of kimono by an experienced craftsman. Finally, the woven textile is inspected to assure its quality.

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