Gujyo-Tsumugi and Oshima-Tsumugi Kimonos

We had a holiday called Thanksgiving day on November 24th. This holiday is similar as Obon, a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestors and Oshogatsu, a Japanese New Year holiday. On that day, most of the shops and works are closed. People gather with their family and have dinner with them. The holiday season starts.
I was busy from late October to early November. I worked for VOGUE Paris and i-D magazine, so on. In Japan, December is called Shiwasu, meaning the month when teachers or priests run. I was really running these days.

The day before Thanksgiving day, my husband gave me a present, which includes Gujyo-Tsumugi and Oshima-Tsumugi kimonos. He said “You did really great jobs this year and this present was a prize for your efforts of this year. “

Gujyo-Tsumugi fabrics were loved by Ms. Masako Shirasu, a famous essayist for Japanese culture. They are all hand woven and dyed with plant. It takes long way to produce them. They look rustic, but powerful and elegant with various stripes and color graduations.

Long time ago, Gujyo-Tsumugi fabrics were woven by farmers who lived in Gujyo-Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture, the center of Japan. They made Tsumugi pongees for their daily clothes. In the Showa period (1926-1989), they gradually disappeared. But Mr. Rikizan Munahiro, who was the first living national treasure for weaving Tsumugi pongees in Japan, revitalized Gujyo-Tsumugi pongees. Rikizan educated pioneer farmers and after WWⅡ, he studied natural dye and TSUMUGI as well as trained the research students. He also developed market for their hand-woven Tsumugi for the industry of Gujyo-Hachiman. Now we can enjoy Gujyo-Tsumugi thanks to him as well as many craftsmen.

When I touched this Gujyo-Tsumugi kimono for the first time, I was surprised at its warmness. It’s really cold in winter in NY. We have to withstand sub-zero temperature outside. I will love to wear this Gujyo-Tsumugi kimono in this winter season.

Unfortunately, recently craftsmen of Gujyo-Tsumugi fabrics become old and gradually decrease. I heard that they can produce only 10 kimonos or so per month. I read one article; it’s possible that we cannot get new Gujyo-Tsumugi fabrics anymore within 3 years. I always wonder if we have any solution to continue to create these wonderful kimonos.
I was surprised to see this Oshima-Tsumugi kimono. How wonderful it is! 
It was made by the traditional technique called “Hon-Warikomi-Shiki” technique (the interruption weaving technique) and dyed with natural indigo and clay. Hon-Warikomi-Shiki technique was once diminished. But recently, although it is not the same technique as it used to be, craftsmen tried to recreate it. Compared to the nine Maruki Katasu technique (One of the standard weaving techniques for Kasuri splash patterns.), Hon-Warikomi-Shiki technique can attain more Kasuri splash patterns and more complicated and clear designs. Oshima-Tsumugi fabrics are usually designed by gradation and density, while Oshima-Tsumugi fabrics made by the Hon-Warikomi-Shiki technique are designed much more stereoscopically. 

I was surprised how preciously this kimono was made. This kimono was old and its size was too small, but I think it is really a wonderful kimono. My husband told me that the price was really low. I think that the kimono craftsmen decrease as well as the customers who know and understand the real great kimonos.

All the old Oshim-Tsumugi kimonos were made by the Hon-Warikomi-Shiki technique. Since Oshim-Tsumugi kimonos were very popular around 1970’s and needed to be made in high volume. At that time, some of them were made in Korea and were not dyed with natural clay, but with chemical dyes. Recently some of pattern designs or no pattern designs of Oshima-Tsumugi kimonos can be machine–woven. But I convince that old great Oshima-Tsumugi kimono woven by the hand-woven Hon-Warikomi-Shiki technique is really a treasure of human beings,

I think that craftsmen use all the five senses when they create products with their hand working. These fabrics also contain their history, experience, and sense. I believe it’s impossible to recreate them by machine.

Both Gujyo-Tsumugi and Oshima-Tsumugi kimonos/fabrics are wonderful. And I feel very sad to know that these kimono craftsmen decrease rapidly. I always wonder if there are ways in which I could do for this crisis


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