What is Tsumugi?
Tsumugi is a dyed fabric made of silk threads. The silk threads are drawn from the cocoons of silkworms, and the fabric surface is made of the silk threads, giving it a unique shine. The technique of thread yarn dyeing used for tsumugi is a method of expressing patterns by dyeing the threads before weaving the kimono. Unlike dyeing after weaving, yarn dyeing is a very expensive and timeconsuming process. However, the silk produced by yarn dyeing, which is both durable and beautiful, has survived the current of the times and continues to survive until the present day.
Major production areas of silk products
The culture of tsumugi is widely spread all over Japan, as it was used by the townspeople in the Edo period (1603-1868). Such tsumugi is widely used throughout the country. Of course, there is no uniformity in the whole country. There are some differences depending on the region. Let's take a look at famous tsumugi from all over Japan.
Yonezawa tsumugi is a type of tsumugi produced in and around Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture. In Yonezawa tsumugi, a technique called "chijimi" (shrinking) is introduced. This gives the threads a strong twist, which increases the strength of the kimono. One of the characteristics of this technique is that even fine wrinkles appear. In addition, while it is common for one cloth to be used for one type of pongee, Yonezawa has a wide variety of cloth, such as "Nagai tsumugi" and "safflower tsumugi".
Nitayama Tsumugi is a pongee created in Kawauchi Town, Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is a pongee with cotton threads, and there was a time when people called it "fake". Nevertheless, thanks to the continuous development of techniques by craftsmen, it remains as a famous pongee even today.
This Yuki tsumugi was born in the Yuki region of Ibaraki Prefecture. One of the characteristics of Yuki tsumugi is the use of cotton. Cotton is soft and contains a lot of air, making it warm and comfortable. The production technique itself is also highly valued and is designated as an important intangible cultural asset by the Japanese government.
Ushikubushi tsumugi originated in Ushikubushi Village, which is the old name of Yonezawa, and is now used in many other areas of the country.
Shinshu tsumugi is a silk fabric produced throughout Nagano Prefecture. It can be further classified into "Matsumoto tsumugi" and "Ueda tsumugi". Shinshu tsumugi is characterized by its prestigious dyeing technique and austere luster. The raw materials used are hand-spun raw silk, silkworms, ball silk, and cotton. In addition, since they are dyed by plants and trees and carefully woven by hand, no two pieces are ever made the same. It is said to be so durable that it can be used by parents and children for three generations.
Gunjo tsumugi is a pongee produced in Gunjo-Hachiman, located in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this pongee is a little different from other pongees. In fact, this pongee started to be produced for the purpose of regional revitalization. It was gradually developed because the area was a production center of high quality silk yarns and was surrounded by clean water and nature. Rikizo Souhiro, who played a leading role in the development of Gunjo tsumugi, was also recognized as a living national treasure.
This refers to the pongee woven in Shiina, Osaka. It is a very old costume and it is difficult to obtain images of it. On the other hand, if Shiina tsumugi is discovered today, it is expected to be quite expensive.
Kumejima tsumugi has been culturally cultivated in Okinawa Prefecture. All dyes are made from sartoriibara (ghoul) and other dyes native to the island. The basic coloring is black with a glossy sheen, with some colors such as young grass and yellow also existing. In 2004, the production techniques handed down from generation to generation were designated as Intangible Important Cultural Properties, and more efforts are being made to protect them.
Oshima tsumugi is widely produced in the Amami region of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is so famous that it is counted among the world's three most famous silk textiles, along with France's "Gobelins" and Iran's "Persian carpets". The deep black color produced by yarn-dyeing has an elegant luster and is supple, lightweight, and wrinkle-resistant. The raw materials used for dyeing are extracted from a plant native to the Amami area called tecchigi. Oshima tsumugi is a wonderful kimono suited to the local climate.
The weaving of two different types of fibers is called Koshoku. Koshoku tsumugi is made by using this weave. The representative example of such a mixed weave pongee is the Karasugi pongee developed in Okayama Prefecture. The warp and weft yarns are made in different ways, so the number of processes is relatively large, but there is a quality that can only be obtained with mixed weave, which is different from mixed weave.
Ryukyu tsumugi is mainly produced in Naha City, Yaese Town, Shimajiri gun, and Nambuhara Town, Shimajiri-gun, in Okinawa Prefecture. Ryukyu tsumugi is also said to be the origin of Japanese kasuri. Ryukyu tsumugi is characterized by its rich variety of patterns. The traditional Okinawan kasuri pattern is made of patterns related to life in the surrounding nature, animals, plants, etc. It is said that there are about 600 different types of kasuri patterns.
Bengara tsumugi is the only pongee produced in foreign countries. The pattern is mostly striped, and the main ground color is red. Warp threads are made of silk and weft threads are made of cotton. Because it originated overseas, it is distinct from other kimonos in terms of design.
Shiozawa tsumugi developed in the Shiozawa region of Niigata Prefecture. Its history is old, and it is confirmed that it has existed since the Nara period (710-794). Echigo Kamifu, a hemp fabric, has been designated as a national important intangible cultural property and a UNESCO intangible cultural property in recognition of its high technology. Shiozawa tsumugi was created using these techniques. You can enjoy the softness of cotton.
Enshu momen (Enshu cotton)
Enshu cotton is traditionally produced in the Enshu region of western Shizuoka Prefecture. All eight independent processes are located in Hamamatsu, and production remains unchanged from the past. There is also a wide variety of colors. More than 100 different colors have been developed over its long history. The colors have been improved in the hot and humid climate of Japan, and the more they are used, the more they become familiar with Japanese colors. The development of Enshu cotton was also made possible by the technology of the world-famous Toyota Motor Corporation. Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota, developed automatic looms to improve the efficiency of textile production. Thanks to the efforts of various people, the pongee has become a pongee that has remained in the modern world.
Ina tsumugi was developed in the Ina Valley in the southern part of Nagano Prefecture, where the silk manufacturing industry flourished. In the past, it was woven into the fabric in the home, but nowadays there are only a few of them left. It is also one of the Shinshu tsumugi products, and there is a certain technical skill that has been cultivated over a long history.
This Ueda tsumugi is also one of the Shinshu tsumugi. In the Edo period (1603-1867), it dominated the world as one of the three most popular pongee in Japan, along with Oshima and Yuki pongee. It is characterized by its lightness and pleasant feel. In addition, there are many efforts to preserve the pongee here even today, and with the help of the local Shinshu University, it is developing.
As you can see, there are many pongee in Japan. Each of them has its own merits, so it is not possible to assign superiority or inferiority. However, since there are so many of them, you can find your favorite one if you look for it. If you like silk and kimono, please try to find your favorite.