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 silk is a fabric produced in the area around the city of Ojiya, Niigata Prefecture. Ojiya is known as an area with heavy snow. Echigo jofu (a kind of linen textile) has been produced in this area for centuries.
Hemp textiles were actively woven in due course as a new weaving technique was introduced. This hemp textile was developed to the line crepe known as Ojiya chijimi. It has distinctive embossed patterns that are created by the weft threads only.
The woven pongee Ojiya tsumugi silk uses the traditional technique of Ojiya chijimi and the technique of Echigo jofu which has lasted for over 1000 years. A kimono made with Ojiya chijimi gives a soft and hazy impression created by the layers of the patterns. The layers of patterns are created by the weft threads and the warp threads of dupioni raw silk.
There are two fabrics to mention in addition which are the plan white tsumugi silk (called shiro tsumugi silk) and traditional resist-dyed textile with stripe or splashed patterns (called yokosogasuri).
The characteristics of Ojiya tsumugi silk are the natural feeling of the soft, light and warm texture of the floss silk combined with the smooth touch of the lustrous silk. It is also durable so it can be worn every day.


The production of Echigo jofu (a kind of linen textile) has been a successful business in the Ojiya area for more than 1000 years. Jiro Masatoshi HORI, a samurai from the Harima Akashi domain stayed in Ojiya from 1661 to 1672 and modified Echigo jofu into a textile suitable for summer wear. This new fabric was called Ojiya chijimi. The technique to weave patterns including stripes was also invented and more variety of textiles became available other than the plain white textile. Since then the technique of Ojiya chijimi was widely practiced centering on Ojiya and the weaving industry in this area was successfully developed.
The origin of Ojiya tsumugi silk is when fabrics were woven with silk threads using the technique of Ojiya chijimi in the mid-Edo period (1603-1868). In the beginning the threads were pulled and spun from waste cocoons and Ojiya tsumugi silk was worn at home. However, the raw material of linen (ramie) suffered a serious shortage by the hit of a famine in the late Edo period to the early Meiji period (1868-1912). This event has made many manufacturers quitting Chijimi and move onto sericulture.
Many people have also started producing silk textile in initiate, which became the local craft product of Ojiya area. Ojiya tsumugi silk was successfully developed as a noticeable local industry as the area was fulfilled with all the factors to be the most suitable environment for the production; the longtime practiced sericulture, the technique of Echigo jofu, and the humid winter climate.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Planning In order to create splash patterns (kasuri) on thread, the artisan has to make a kasuri ruler for fitting the design in advance.
    It is made based on the original design sketch. This ruler has been used since the 1680's.
  2. 2. Thread making Hand-spun threads of dupioni raw silk and silk floss are used. Silk floss is a thread pulled from the cocoon. Silkworm cocoons have to be boiled for a few hours before the strands are pulled out by hand one by one and they are layered to make silk floss. Silk threads are pulled out of silk floss carefully and the thickness is adjusted with fingers to make it even. The pulled threads are wound as a single 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 a knotted thread. Dupioni raw silk has unique characteristics, which give pongee a smooth texture.
    Prepared threads are twisted together by warp for the base and weft for the pattern. The threads are refined in boiling water to get rid of impurities. Then the threads are wound around a gourd called fukube. The necessary number of thread is prepared based on the plan and the length and other aspects are adjusted.

  3. 3. Marking and tying the threads The weft threads are pulled on a pulling stand called haridai and marked with ink using the kasuri ruler so that the splash patterns appear in the accurate positions when the threads are woven. After marking, a technique called kubiri kasuri is applied when tying the threads with the old ramie to left the spots undyed. This process is also called as tekukuri which means "hand tying". However, a technique called surikomi kasuri is more popular today as complicated patterns and various colors are used.
  4. 4. Rubbing the dyes The patterns woven by warp threads are the main characteristic of this textile. Surikomi kasuri and kubiri kasuri are the techniques used to make patterns.
    The surikomi kasuri method consists in rubbing the dyes into the threads carefully and thoroughly using a rubbing spatula according to the marking.
    The kubiri kasuri method consists in tying up 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 tied spots take time to soak up the dye so this work requires a lot of attention and to be patient.
    Natural dyes and chemical dyes are used for the dying materials. Natural dyes such as indigo and plant dyes require a longer time in order to attain a deep color. Dyed threads are steamed at 100℃ for the dye to permeate and starched to make weaving easier.
  5. 5. Weaving The dyed threads are wound tightly according to the pattern sketch. The positions of warp threads and the weft threads have to be precise as the process of winding threads requires close adjustments. The weft threads are untied and loosened to be wound around the pulling frame. Then the weft threads are draped on a threads frame called kookoshidai and wound around the tube for spinning. The weft threads are put through heddle eye one by one and two threads each are put through a reed split of a reed. Once the threads are all through, the design sketch is put down underneath and the kasuri threads and the base threads are wound around the axis of a loom. The positions of kasuri patterns are adjusted in accordance with the design sketch.
    When everything is prepared for weaving, weaving starts by putting through the weft threads one by one following the kasuri marks. This weaving method was not changed since the Edo period (1603-1868).
  6. 6. Finishing Excess starch is washed out from the textile in lukewarm water and straightened out to dry.
    The natural texture of silk floss comes out after the hammering.
    The finished product is inspected for any irregularities in the weave.

Where to Buy & More Information

Ojiya Dento Sangyo Kaikan Sunplaza

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