NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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秩父銘仙 Chichibu-meisen Chichibu Meisen

Jp En

Chichibu Meisen is the silk fabric made from Chichibu silk that has been manufactured since ancient time in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
The origin of Chichibu Meisen dates back as early as the Emperor Sujin era (BC149~BC29) when Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto taught the technology of sericulture and the weaving to local people.
The fabric uses yarns taken from silkworm cocoons called Tama-mayu as well as Kuzu-mayu, debris of the cocoons. This thick yarn is woven horizontally, which makes the fabric durable. Sericulturists used to make the fabric for their own working clothes.
Chichibu Meisen uses a simple weave form called Hiraori (literally, flat weave) which has no difference between front and reverse side, thus, allowing people to turn the clothes inside-out to renovate the dress when the color wears out. With its durability and utility, the fabric became popular among common people and developed further.
Samurai warriors also valued the fabric and helped its development. Over the decades, Chichibu Meisen was improved and the technology advanced while it kept its tradition. It reached its period of peak popularity during Meiji era and the beginning of Showa era.
Chichibu Meisen, which won the hearts of many people in Meiji and Taisho era with its rich design style, still draws attention and is woven with great care while preserving its long history.
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絹の道 Kinu-no-michi Silk Road

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Kinu no Michi, or Japanese Silk Road, is a highway connecting Hachiouji City to Tokyo and Yokohama City of Kanagawa Prefecture and it follows the same journey as today’s Route 16.
Hachiouji City had been known as Souto (translated as the city of mulberry) since old times and thrived with the production of raw silk. In 1859, as Yokohama opened its port to limited foreign trade, raw silk became an important export and Hachiouji became a vital hub for raw silk merchants from Nagano and Yamanashi area.
The road frequently used for the raw silk trade was called Yarimizu-kaidou or Hama-kaidou, but because the road was what the Silk Road was to the Asian continent, it later became known as Kinu no Michi, or Japanese Silk Road.
The road has been recognized for its historical importance and some parts of the road and vicinity were restored and preserved. In Yarimizu region of Hachiouji, there is the Silk Road Museum built inside the ruins of the mansion of a famous raw silk merchant.
The Silk Road is a valuable historical record that has many stories to tell of the silk trade merchants in late Edo period and the Meiji era to this day.
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山口安次郎 Yamaguchi Yasujiro Yasujiro Yamaguchi

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Born in 1904, Yasujiro Yamaguchi has been involved in the Nishijin textile industry in Kyoto for almost a century since he graduated from an elementary school. He is specialized in the technique called “Karaori (float-weave brocades),” which requires especially high skills and experience among many types of Nishijin weavings.

Since 1950, when he was asked by Kongo Iwao, 25th head of the Kongo school of Noh to recreate Noh costumes that were made 300 years ago, he has reproduced and woven various kinds of cloth for Noh costumes. He has also donated his works to a number of museums in the world. It is well-known that he presented the U.S. General Douglas MacArthur with the cloth for Noh costume. Yamaguchi also reproduced a “Ten-mizuhiki (an upper tapestry)” of a float for Gion Festival in Kyoto.

Yamaguchi was selected as a “Master Craftsman of the Age” in 1982, and received Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays in 1983. Together with his elder brother Itaro, the centenarian brothers have been actively contributing to the further development of the Nishijin weavings. Their spirit of inquiry gives us the courage to live.
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出石焼 Izushi-yaki Izushi Ware

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Izushi ware is transparently white porcelain handed down in Izushi-cho, Hyogo Pref. Making of this porcelain ware dates back to 1784, when the first pottery was fired in this area. Later in the same period, with the discovery of large quantities of kaolin in the area, the feudal lord at the time gave support to this craft and invited skilled potters from Arita to help the local workmen, which marked the beginning of porcelain making in the castle town of Izushi. Its pure white porcelain that cannot be produced in any other area together with its high-standard techniques of sculpting exquisite patterns enhances the beauty of this craft work. During the Meiji period it was exhibited at World Expos held at Paris and Tokyo and it gained fame at a burst. After the World War II, the work of an artist potter of Izushi won the first prize at Nitten (the Japanese Fine Arts Exhibition), which encouraged artistic production as well. In 1980, Izushi ware was designated as a National Traditional Craft Product. This silky pure white porcelain can be referred to as the best “porcelain art” created by honed skills of the potters.
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田島比呂子(人間国宝) Tajima Hiroshi Hiroshi Tajima (Human National Treasure)

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Hiroshi Tajima was born in 1922. In 1999, he was designated as a Living National Treasure in yuzen dyeing.

Just after he graduated from junior-high school, Tajima studied under Shoko Takamura and Ryuji Takamura, then he learned the yuzen technique on his own. When he was 32 years old, he became independent and sent works to many exhibitions, such as the Japan Traditional Handicrafts Exhibition. In a study group, he learned from a Living National Treasure, Nakamura Katsuma, and improved his techniques.

His technique is based on traditional yuzen dyeing and the various techniques he studied. Finally he invented his original 'sekidashi-yuzen'. This features raised patterns of sekidashi-yuzen, which are richly and beautifully colored by techniques such as direct rice-glue painting. The themes of his designs are mainly based on natural things, such as wild birds, cranes, eagles, gulls and wild flowers. His artistic works stir your poetic imagination.
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小宮康孝(人間国宝) Komiya Yasutaka Yasutaka Komiya (Living National Treasure)

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Yasutaka Komiya was born in 1925. In 1978, he was designated a Living National Treasure for his work in 'Edo-komon' dyeing.

His family was in the dyeing business and had a factory. When he graduated from elementary school, he was apprenticed to his father, Kosuke (also a Living National Treasure), from whom he gained a strong grasp of dyeing techniques.

Through his training, he realized that he should study more about paper patterns and dye in order develop his skills. His efforts paid off and he became accomplished in colored komon dyeing, in which patterns are dotted as finely as fog.

It is said that Komiya is the best Edo-komon artist and everyone who likes tea knows his name. But he is modest, saying, 'it is impossible to make good komon-dyeing by my power alone'. He says that by working together with other fine craftsmen, such as paper-pattern-makers, that he is able to achieve the excellent quality he does.
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甲田綏郎(人間国宝) Kouda Yoshio Yoshio Koda (Living National Treasure)

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Yoshio Koda was born in 1929. He has been designated as a Living National Treasure for his work in Seigo Sendaihira handwoven silk.

Seigo Sendaihira is a costly thick silk cloth from Sendai. It is made from high-quality raw silk threads that have been kneaded with straw ash, dyed with natural dyes, and which are then woven by hand.

As a boy, Yoshio Koda was apprenticed to his father, Eisuke, (who was designated as a Human National Treasure in 1956), and learned the traditional skill of Seigo Sendaihira.

After his father died in 1965, Yoshio succeeded to the craft. He has been engaged not only in preserving the tradition but in making his original style. Now, he is one of the best weavers in Japan.
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玉那覇有公(人間国宝) Tamanaha Yuukou Yuko Tamanaha (Living National Treasure)

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Yuko Tamanaha was born in 1936 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'bingata' dyeing work.

Bingata is a splendid dyeing craft that symbolises the culture of the Ryukyu dynasty. Its color reflects the colors of Okinawan nature. Professional artists compete with each other to succeed and pursue these traditional skills. And Bingata is a dyeing craft that is unique to Okinawa.

Tamanaha studied dyeing under Eiki Shiroma, the 14th in the Shiroma family and one of the three head families of Bingata. When he was 34, Tamanaha began to send his work to exhibitions and received many prizes for excellence.

His career is brilliant but his work is a steady repetition of tasks. The handiwork requires finesse and endurance and considerable effort leads to beautiful work.

Tamanaha is now engaged in making bingata with his family at his studio: the Tamanaha Bingata Institute in the village of Yomitan.
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