Ojiya tsumugi silk Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Ojiya tsumugi silk Ojiya tsumugi

Simple and traditional art from a town with heavy snow
Light and warm silk wadding


What is Ojiya tsumugi silk ?

Ojiya Tsumugi is a fabric produced in the area around Ojiya City, Niigata Prefecture. Ojiya is known as an area with heavy snow. Echigo Jyofu (linen fabric) has been produced in this area for centuries. In due course a new weaving technique was introduced and Ojiya Chijimi, linen crepe, was created. It has distinctive Shibo (embossed patterns) and the patterns are created by the weft threads only.
Ojiya Tsumugi (pongee) is woven using the traditional technique of Ojiya Chijimi and the technique of Echigo Jyofu which has been used for over 1000 years. When Kimono is made with Ojiya Chijimi, it gives a soft and hazy impression created by the layers of the patterns created by the weft threads and the warp threads of Tamamayu (dupioni raw silk). There are plain fabrics and Shiro Tsumugi (plain white fabric) in addition to the Yokosogasuri (Kasuri pattern) and striped pattern. The characteristic of Ojiya Chijimi is the natural feel of the soft, light and warm texture of the floss silk combined with the smooth touch of the lustrous silk. The Ojiya Chijimi Kimono is durable so it is worn for casual outings.


Production of Echigo Jyofu (linen fabric) has been a successful business in the Ojiya area for more than 1000 years. Jiro Masatoshi Hori, a samurai belonging to the domain of Harima Akashi, stayed in Ojiya from 1661 and 1672 and modified Echigo Jyofu into a fabric suitable for summer wear. The new fabric was called Ojiya Chijimi with Shibo. The technique to weave patterns including stripes was also invented so that a wider variety of fabrics became available other than plain white fabric. The technique of Ojiya Chijimi spread widely with the Ojiya area as the center led to the successful development of the weaving industry in the area. Ojiya Tsumugi was created when fabric was woven with silk threads using the technique of Ojiya Chijimi in the mid-Edo period. In the beginning the threads were pulled and spun from waste cocoons and the woven fabric was for home-use. However, a famine occurred and Karamushi (ramie) there was insufficient raw material for linen between the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period. For this reason, more manufacturers changed from making Chijimi to sericulture. More people also started producing silk fabric leading to the silk fabric becoming the craft product of the Ojiya area. Sericulture that had been widely practiced in the area for a long time, the technique of producing Echigo Jyofu and the wet winter climate made a suitable environment for the silk fabric production which became a successful industry.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Planning (Making the Kasuri Pattern Drawing and the ruler) Making a ruler matching the pattern is the first thing to do to mark patterns such as Kasuri on threads. The Kasuri ruler has been used since the 1680’s. The ruler is made based on the original pattern drawing.
  2. 2. Ito-tsukuri (Making threads) Ojiya Tsumugi uses hand-spun threads of dupioni raw silk and floss silk. Floss silk is a thread pulled from the cocoon. Silkworm cocoons have to be boiled in water for a few hours before pulling out the strands by hand one by one and layering them to make floss silk. Silk threads are pulled out of floss silk carefully and the thickness is adjusted by fingers to make it even. The pulled threads are wound as one thin thread to make a hand-spun thread.
    Dupioni raw silk is a thread reeled from Tamamayu, a cocoon with more than one silkworm pupa inside. The thread becomes entangled and knotted because there is more than one pupa in one cocoon so it is also called Fushi-ito, a knotted thread. Dupioni raw silk has unique characteristics and it makes pongee with a smooth texture.
    Prepared threads are twisted together separately for warp (base) and for weft (Kasuri pattern). The threads are refined in boiling water to get rid of impurities. Then the threads are wound around a Fukube (a gourd). The necessary number of threads are prepared based on the plan and the length and other aspects are adjusted.
  3. 3. Sumitsuke, Kubiri (Marking and fastening the threads) The weft threads are pulled on the Haridai (a pulling stand) and marked in ink using the Kasuri ruler so that the Kasuri patterns appear in the correct positions when the threads are woven. After marking, the threads are fastened with the old ramie so that these places are left undyed for Kubiri Kasuri (fastened Kasuri). This process is also called Te-kukuri (fastening by hand). However, the patterns have become complicated and require more colors so the Surikomi Kasuri technique is more popular today.
  4. 4. Surikomi (Rubbing dye into threads) The characteristic of Ojiya Tsumugi is the patterns woven by the warp threads. Surikomi Kasuri and Kubiri Kasuri are the techniques used to make patterns. The Surikomi Kasuri method is to rub dye into the threads carefully and thoroughly using a rubbing spatula in accordance with the marking. On the other hand, the Kubiri Kasuri method is to fasten the threads and wind them into a skein. The prepared threads are dyed with the base threads. They are put in dye and kneaded using fingers. The edges of the fastened places take time to soak up the dye so you have to be careful and patient.
    Natural dyes and chemical dyes are used. Natural dyes, for example, indigo dye and plant dyes require a longer time in order to attain a deep color. Dyed threads are steamed in 100℃ for the dye to permeate and starched to make weaving easier.
  5. 5. Preparation for Weaving and Weaving The dyed threads are wound tightly in accordance with the pattern drawing. The positions of warp threads and the weft threads have to be precise so the process of winding threads requires careful adjustment. The weft threads are unfastened and loosened to be wound around Tekuriwaku (pulling frame). Then, the weft threads are draped on Ko-okoshidai (a frame for threads) and wound around the tube for spinning. The weft threads are put through Sokome (heddle eye) one by one and then two threads at a time are put through one Ha (reed split) of Osa (reed). Once the threads are all through, the pattern drawing is put down underneath and the Kasuri threads and the base threads are wound around the axis of the loom. The positions of Kasuri patterns are adjusted in accordance with the pattern drawing.
    When everything is prepared for weaving, weaving starts by putting through the weft threads one by one. The Kasuri Tsukuri markings are made to ensure the correct positions. This weaving method for various patterns has not changed since the Edo period.
  6. 6. Finish Excess starch is washed out from the fabric in lukewarm water and the fabric is straightened out to dry. The true texture of floss silk comes out once Kinutauchi (hammering the fabric) is done. The finished product is inspected for any soiling or irregularities in the weave. Production of Ojiya Tsumugi is completed when it passes the inspection.

Where to Buy & More Information

Ojiya Dento Sangyo Kaikan Sunplaza

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