Murakumo-gosho Zuiryuu-ji Temple belongs to Nichiren religious sect and is the only Monseki temple among Nichiren temples. It is now located at the top of Hachiman Mountain in Shiga Prefecture.
The temple was built in 1596 by Nisshuuni, an older sister of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, so she could pray there for the soul of her son, Hidetsugu, who was forced to commit harakiri by the order of Hideyoshi.
At the time the temple was built, Nisshuuni was given the land Murakumo of Saga, Kyoto, and the name, Zuiryuu-ji, to the temple by Emperor Goyouzei. The temple attracted many followers from the Imperial family and politically powerful aristocrats and was recognized as a Monseki temple, which is a title given to a temple that had a close relationship with aristocracy, and was called Murakumo-gosho. In the Edo period, the temple was transferred from Saga to Nishijin. The monument of Murakumo-gosho is still present in front of the Nishiji Textile Center.
In 1962, Nichieini who is the 12th representative of the temple and had dedicated her life to restoring it, moved the temple to its current location, the site of Oumi Hchiman Castle, where Hidetsugu was deeply connected to.
Magnificent views can be seen from the temple of the beautiful line of Suzuka Mountains far away, the town of Oomi in the south and Biwa Lake in the east. After the transfer, the main building and the gardens were restored by followers. The temple is now open to the public and welcomes visitors.
Tokamachi Akashi crepe is a traditional handicraft handed down in Toka-machi, Niigata Prefecture. This elegant fabric is suitable for a summer kimono due to its distinctive thinness and lightness like the wings of a cicada.
The weaving technique of Akashi crepe dates back to around the end of the 19th century, when a crape wholesale merchant brought back a sample roll of crepe cloth to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. He asked a local textile worker to create a new type of crepe fabric here in Tokamachi by studying the sample and adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya (silk crepe).
A great deal of effort was made to make an improvement in the ways of tightly twisting up threads, resulting in creating sukiya chirimen, which was named Akashi Chijimi, or Akashi Crepe. Even after that, several improvements such as waterproof finish were added to the product. Tokamachi Akashi crepes dominated the market with annual production of 200,000 rolls of fabric in the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Thread made of raw silk and dupion are used. In order to give the cloth its distinctive crepe effect, the weft is coated with starch and then put on a twisting machine and tightly twisted. Finally, the crepe effect is produced by rubbing the cloth in warm water, which produces its original winkling called “shibo (wave-shaped winkling).” Because of this winkling, the cloth does not stick to the skin and keeps you feeling cool. The climatic conditions of the town; the heavy snowfall, high humidity and little strong wind and the zest of local weaving workers have produced this elegant crepe fabric.
Tapestry is a form of textile art done all over the world since the ancient times. There area a lot of works with high histiric and artistic values. It is said that the oldest tapestry was made by the Coptic in Egypt in about 1580 BC. The techniques of tapestry weaving were brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. The pieces of works brought in these eras are preserved at Horyuji Temple and Shosoin (the Imperial Repository). In the later years, decorative tapestries were woven at many Buddhist temples such as Ninnaji Temple and Honaganji Temple, which was developed into the techniques to make the cloth for obi-belts at Nishijin in Kyoto.
In general, tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving, in which a pattern drawing is placed under the hidden warp thread and the patterns are woven out by plucking the warp thread with weft thread passed through the shuttle.
In the most elaborate technique of Tsume-Tsuzure (literally meaning “nail weaving”), the cloth is woven by plucking the warp with fingernails, from which it is called “the brocade woven by nails.” It is such sophisticated skills and patience that have created ever fascinating beauty for as long as 3,000 years.
Kiryu textile is the traditional handicraft handed down in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is said that Kiryu textiles dates back to around A.D. 800, when Princess Shirataki, who had served at the Imperial Court, came to Kiryu after she married into the Yamada family and taught the art of sericulture and weaving to the people of the village. Kiryu textiles became well known throughout the country after Nitta Yoshisada raised an army at the end of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and Tokugawa Ieyasu used a white silk flag produced in Kiryu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
In the middle of the 18th century, they invited two weavers of Nishijin to learn the most innovative techniques of the time. Then in the first half of the 19th century with patronage from the Shogunate, it became possible to produce high quality textiles. Being called “Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east,” the town of Kiryu was flourished as the production center of high quality textiles, which became one of the key industries of the country throughout the periods from Meiji to early Showa.
With unpopularity of kimono, the textile industry in Kiryu is also in a predicament now, but Kiryu is making its way to develop new products by introducing the latest technology.
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.
Kyo Yuuzen dyeing is said to be invented by Miyazaki Yuuzen and has developed to become, along with Nishijin-ori, the most recognized Kyoto traditional industry. Yuuzen-style dyeing uses numerous subtly varied colors; most of which is unique by the world standard. The most distinctive feature is the pattern called Yuuzen-moyou, which illustrates curved and simplified drawings such as animals, plants, vessel and landscapes. Technically speaking, Yuuzen is the syntheses of various different dyeing techniques that were used before the middle of Edo period. It has continued to evolve and improve over the years to this day. The design is also dynamic and changed according to popular taste and aesthetics of the era. Moriguchi Kakou, a renowned pioneer of Yuuzen, is famous for the Makinori technique, in which Makie, or gold lacquer is applied to Yuuzen dyeing. Like gold dust used in Makie lacquer techniques, small particles of resist-paste are usually added during the dyeing process. This unique invention has taken the beauty of Yuuzen to another level. Mr. Moriguchi was designated as a bearer of Important Intangible Cultural Assets, also referred to as a Living National Treasure, in 1967.
Yusoku Weaves are the techniques of weaving used for fabrics for the ancient formal clothing in Japan. Yusoku patterns are created by the weaving techniques including nishiki (Japanese brocade), aya (twill weaving), uki-ori (float weave), futae-ori (double technique brocade), and sha (silk gauze). These techniques, taking twists and turns, have been handed down up to the present time, used in the clothing for imperial ceremonies, shrine priests’ ceremonial costumes, Buddhist priests’ gowns, and Shinto shrines’ sacred treasures. The fascination of Yusoku Weaves lies in their beautiful colors as well as in their enchanting woven patterns. Hyoji Kitagawa (1936-), a recognized authority on Yusoku Weaves, was designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in 1999. He was born as the second son of Heiro Kitagawa, who was also a designated Living National Treasure and the head of Tawaraya in Kyoto, an old and established weaving shop in Nishijin, Kyoto. Hyoji succeeded his father as the 18th-generation head of Tawaraya in 1988. His skills and techniques are highly evaluated, and up to now, he has made textiles for a lot of imperial ceremonies including the coronation ceremony of Emperor Heisei and the marriage ceremony of Prince Akishino. Thinking of making Yusoku Weaves popularized to the general public, he has now energetically engaged in making kimono obi (sash).
Weaving industry in Kyoto suffered a catastrophic damage by the Onin War (1467). However, when the conflict ended, the weavers returned to Kyoto and resumed their craft of weaving on the site where the western forces had camped during the war. Since then this craft has been called “Nishijin,” which means “the west position.” During the Edo period, takahata (raised loom) was imported from China, which made mon-ori (brocade) using Sakizome yarn (yarn dyed in advance) possible and the Nishijin area became the major textile producing center. In the Meiji period, observers went to France and other European countries to study the textile techniques such as jacquard weaving and succeeded in modernizing the industry, which made the Nishijin Weaving the highest-grade textile of the country. In Nishijin weaving, yarns of various colors are woven to make gorgeous and elaborate patterns. At the present not only traditional obi belts and kimono fabrics but also fabrics used for neckties and kimono accessories are made. Some are even used for interior decoration. Innovative products with modern design are manufactured as well. Up to now, 12 of the techniques are designated as Traditional Craft Products.