Tokamachi traditional resist-dyed textiles Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Tokamachi traditional resist-dyed textiles Tokamachi gasuri

Distinctive grace of woven silk and delicate patterns
Folk craft fabric mixing traditional beauty and a modern style


What is Tokamachi traditional resist-dyed textiles ?

Tokamachi Gasuri is a fabric produced in Tokamachi City and around Tsunanmachi in Nakauonuma, Niigata Prefecture. This area has heavy snow in the winter and is in a basin, so the climate and geographical features are all suitable for fabric production. Another famous fabric called Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi is also produced here, so the area is well known as a successful fabric producing area. The weaving techniques of kasuri (splashed patterns) used to produce Tokamachi Gasuri and Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi are the same, but the method of nenshi which involves twisting the threads together is different. This nenshi method creates a difference in the texture and the strength of the woven fabric. The characteristic of Tokamachi Gasuri is the lustrous texture of silk fabric with the patterns of tategasuri (vertical splashed patterns) and yokogasuri (horizontal splashed patterns). The luster and the texture of silk are distinctive in this fabric, and with the traditional, beautiful kasuri patterns and a modern style combined, Tokamachi Gasuri are cherished as a kimono for outings as well as for regular use at home.


It is said that the resist yarn dyeing techniques for Echigo Chijimi, a hemp fabric mainly produced around Ojiya, Niigata prefecture, already existed in the early 18th century. As the area around Tokamachi and Uonuma region is famous for its heavy snow, the humidity is high, and with its geographical features of being in a basin, there are no strong winds throughout the year. For this reason, ramie, material for hemp fabric, was produced to a great extent since the Asuka period (592 - 710). The development of the technique to spread fabric on snow called yukizarashi, enabled production of high quality fabrics, leading to the production of silk textiles later on. In the Edo period (1603 - 1867), the whole Tokamachi area became famous as a production area for Echigo Chijimi, and the fabric was used to make single-layer kimonos and ceremonial samurai costumes. In the late 19th century, Akashi Chijimi, a high quality silk fabric for use in the summer, became a nationwide standard. Kasuri weaving further developed and started to be used in silk textiles. In the Meiji period (1868 - 1912), various resist yarn dyeing techniques for kasuri were developed, and kasuri became even more popular. Even after World War II, Tokamachi Gasuri and Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi are the two famous fabrics that support Tokamachi as the "Town of Silk Textiles."

General Production Process

  1. 1. Planning (Making the Kasuri Pattern Drawing and the ruler) First of all, a Kasuri pattern drawing is prepared. The Kasuri pattern drawing is based on the original pattern drawing and/or a sample. The positions of the Kasuri pattern are decided and marked on the graph paper. Then, the pattern drawing is divided into Tategasuri and Yokogasuri and the Kasuri rulers for Tategasuri and Yokogasuri are made separately.
  2. 2. Nenshi (twisting threads) and Refining Kiito (raw silk) and Tamaito (dupioni raw silk) have to be set in the Nenshiki (a twisting machine). Tamaito is thick with many knots so it is also called Fushi-ito, a knotted thread. When dupioni raw silk is put through Nenshiki, the thread strength and thickness become even. After that the threads are refined in boiling water in order to remove sericin from the surface of the fabric.
  3. 3. Tenobe (stretching by hand) After Nenshi and refining, the threads are starched before being wound around a bobbin or a frame. Then, the threads are sorted and stretched by the required number and length of threads based on the pattern drawing.
  4. 4. Sumitsuke, Kubiri (marking and fastening the threads) The threads of Tatekasuri and Yokokasuri are pulled on the Haridai (a pulling stand). The edges of both ends of the Kasuri rulers that were made in the planning process have to match and the positions of each Kasuri pattern are marked on the threads. The marked part is fastened firmly by cotton thread or flat rubber to prevent it from being dyed. If fastening (Kukuri) is too weak or in the wrong position, the threads are not dyed properly and the patterns do not come out as planned.
  5. 5. Surikomi (rubbing dye into threads) Dye is rubbed into the marked places thoroughly using the spatula for rubbing. Then the threads are gathered and wound into a skein. The threads are kneaded in dye together with the threads for the base fabric that do not have a pattern. After that, the dyed threads are steamed in 100℃ to settle the color before they are starched to make Kasurimaki and weaving easier.
  6. 6. Preparations for Weaving and Weaving The warp threads and the weft threads are prepared separately. The cotton threads or the flat rubber that fastened the warp threads have to be removed and the threads have to be loosened. Next the threads are wound around the Omaki that delivers the threads. Then, each thread is put through the Sokome (heddle eye). Soko is an arrangement of wires like a comb in a square frame and the little hole in each wire is called Sokome. The threads put through the Sokome are put through the Osa (reed) two at a time which the warp threads go through when weaving. The number of threads used here is approximately 1200 on average. This series of tasks has to be done carefully in order to weave the Kasuri pattern precisely to plan.

    The weft threads, in the meantime, are wound around the Teguriwaku (pulling frame) after unfastening and loosening them. Then, each of the weft threads is draped on the Kokoshidai (a frame for threads) and wound into a skein. The weft threads are wound around the tube for weaving. This is the end of the preparations for weaving.
  7. 7. Weaving The threads were put through the Sokome and Osa in the preparation process so that the threads would move up and down and make room for the weft threads to be put through. The weft threads are put through sideways, sandwiched by the warp threads. The fabric is woven by repeating this movement of threads. The edges marked during Sumitsuke have to be matched and adjusted now and then to make sure the positions of the pattern are correct. When the fabric is woven, an inspection is done to check for soiling, irregularities in the weave or damage in the weave. The fabric is completed when it passes the inspection.

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