Oitama tsumugi silk Oitama tsumugi
One for all and all for one, a unique local industry
Beautiful plain elegant fabrics and three distinct regional techniques
What is Oitama tsumugi silk ?
Oitama Tsumugi is a fabric produced in the Yonezawa, Hakutaka and Nagai regions of Oitama in south Yamagata Prefecture. Oitama is well-known as a ramie fiber producing region with ramie fiber the raw material of ramie, a linen-like fabric, being shipped since the very beginning of the Edo period (1603 – 1868); by the end of the Edo period efforts were being made to establish self-sufficient fabric production. Ramie came to be replaced by sericulture using the local mulberry, and the region changed to silk fabric production which then developed as the local craft industry.
The interesting characteristic of Oitama Tsumugi is that the techniques and the successful methods used in Yonezawa, Hakutaka and Nagai are all quite different.
Yonezawa is known for Kusakizome Tsumugi (vegetable dying) and Benibanazome Tsumugi (mainly safflower dying) using natural dyes including safflower (the prefectural flower of Yamagata), indigo and Kariyasu (miscanthus tinctorius).
Hakutaka has the rare Itajime (plate-resist) dying technique which can only be found in Hakutaka in Japan. Hakutaka also has Yokoso Kasuri, Tateyoko Heiyo Kasuri and Yoneryu Kasuri that was strongly influenced by the fabric produced in Ryukyu (Okinawa).
As can be seen each region has quite different production processes but they all use the Sakizome (dye before weaving) method and the labor intensive Hiraori method that takes more time to weave.
Farmers in Yonezawa were already cultivating ramie and safflower in the early Edo period. In 1601, Kagekatsu Uesugi, the lord of the Yonezawa domain encouraged his people to cultivate these plants as the special products of the region. Ramie and safflower were shipped to Echigo (presently Niigata) and other places as raw materials for producing fabrics. Then, in the mid-Edo period in 1776 Yozan Uesugi (9th lord of the Yonezawa domain) started encouraging self-sufficient fabric production, by inviting artisans from Echigo to Yonezawa to explore the possibilities of starting a local industry and to teach the weaving techniques to the local women.
Linen fabric using ramie was produced in the beginning, but the reformation of the domain by Yozan Uesugi encouraged more sericulture, and production gradually shifted to silk fabrics. Furthermore, in the Meiji period, silk fabric production spread to the nearby regions of Hakutaka and Nagai which also had successful sericulture. The high level techniques of making kasuri were introduced and taught in these regions. Yoneryu Kasuri and Itajime Kogasuri became well known throughout Japan between the Taisho period and the early Showa period. The movement to merge these three regions and unify their fabric production under the single name of Oitama Tsumugi occurred in 1976. Since then, the Kusakizome of Yonezawa, the Yokoso Kasuri and Tateyoko Heiyo Kasuri of Nagai, and the Itajime Kogasuri of Hakutaka have been known as Oitama Tsumugi.
General Production Process
Where to Buy & More Information
Yonezawa Orimono Rekishi Shiryokan
ClosedWednesdays, December 31 to January 3
Business Hours9am to 5pm
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