TOHOKU District

Aomori Pref. (Aomori), Akita Pref. (Akita), Iwate Pref. (Morioka),
Miyagi Pref. (Sendai), Yamagata Pref. (Yamagata), Hukushima Pref. (Hukushima)



( p.34 )

1. Produced in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: A hemp cloth dyed in indigo on which varieties of geometrical patterns are stitched with white cotton threads. The stitches are for reinforcing the cloth and for warm keeping. The contrast in the color of indigo and white and the beauty of the orderly patterns have great appeal to the men today.
3. Uses: Once used mainly for work garments, it is used today for many other items such as sashes, wallets, handbags, neckties, wall carpets "noren"(shop curtain) cigarette cases, table centers, etc.
4. History: The only type of cloth farmers were allowed to use was hemp. As the hemp cloths were not strong, the farmers reinforced the cloths by dyeing them with indigo and by stitching them with the threads taken from the stems of a grass called "Choma"(or Karamushi ,Bochimeria nipononivea, same species as ramie). After the Meiji Period(1868-1912) when cotton became more available, it replaced the hemp and cotton was used both for the cloth and for the stitching. This is an example of how some farmers invented a new technique in spite of very poor living conditions.



( p,35 )

1. Produced in Towada City, Aomori Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: A thick fabric woven with fine strips of cloths in the weft.
3. Uses: Work garments, farming garments, sashes, quilts for "kotatsu"(Japanese foot warmer).
4. History: The feudal government of Nanbu encouraged the reinforcement of old worn cloths. Strong hemp threads were used for the warp and finely torn old worn cloths as woof Today, cotton threads are used as warp and the fabrics are more colorful.



( p.35 )

1. Produced in Kameda Shinmachi, Iwashiro cho, Yuri gun, Akita Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: A mixed fabric of the cotton flower and the cotton from "Zenmai"(Osmunda japonica, royal fern or osmunda) and insect repellent and water proof.
3. Uses: A cloth for full garments, coats, cushions and sashes.
4. History: The textile in Kameda were first produced in 1717 by weavers who came here from Echigo, Niigata Prefecture. The Zenmai Ori was invented and put into market in the Meiji Period by a cotton cloth trader. After that a new mixed fabric made with royal fern cotton, cotton and downs of swan was invented, but this fabric is not being produced today.



( p.36 )

1. Produced in Akita City, Akita Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: A refined and elegant silk textile. The main designs are vertical stripes and lattice. "Hamanasu"(Rosa rugosa) or "Yama Tsubaki"(Rhodoendron kaempheri, wild azalea) is used as dye. Called also as "Akita Kihachijo". Resembling "Kihachijo" the color grows more clearer when washed more often. Therefore, kimonos made of this cloth reach the finest color three years after it is made. Three different names are given to them according to the dyes used: "Tobi Hachijo", "Akita Kihachijo" and "Kawari Hachijo".
3. Uses: A cloth for kimonos and for "Tanzen"(quilted outer garments).
4. History: The history of this textile in Akita is old. In the Kansei or Kyowa Era(1789-1804 ) textiles were first made by Takiemon Ishikawa, native of the Northeastern District, who produced "Une Ori"(literally, ridge weaving), "Ryumon Ori"(plain textile with thick threads) and "Akita Hira".
In the Bunka Era(1804-1818) the feudal government of Satake invited Jinpei Hishinuma from Kiryu(Gunma Prefecture) to instruct local people the techniques of dyeing and weaving with the aim to develop the industry. He first wove "Hachijo Koshi"(leterally Hachijo Lattice) in imitation of "Kihachijo." It was popular in the late years and was called "Akita Kinu"(Akita Silk). He succeeded in producing specific tobi, brown, color using the roots of "Hamanasu"(Rosa urugosa), which grows wild on the beaches in Akita Prefecture. Because of its graceful color, the Akita Hachijo was popularly sold in Edo(Tokyo), Kyoto and Osaka. In the middle of the Meiji Period 60,000 rolls were produced annually. After the Meiji Period, however, production decreased drastically and today, only one weaving factory is trying to maintain the tradition.

Dyeing Method

The plants used for dyeing are (1) the roots of Hamanasu for brown and reddish brown, (2) "Kariyasu"(Miscanthus tinctorius), "Yama Tsutsuji"(Rhododendron kaempheri, wild azalea) and "Yama momo"(Myrica rubra) for yellow, (3) a blend of "Hamanasu" with another plant dye, and the logwood(Haematoxylon campechianum) for black.
Steps for Tobi color dyeing:
(1) Mordant: the reeled threads put through bamboo sticks are compound of iron, aluminum and chrome for 24 hours and then washed in plain water and hydrated.
(2) Pre-dyeing: The threads are dyed for 4-5 minutes in the boiling dye liquid which is obtained by boiling the roots of "Hamanasu" for 7-8 hours.
(3) Dyeing: The threads thus processed are put in a hemp bag. The bag is soaked and stirred in the dye liquid for 4-5 hours. After washing in plain water, the threads are put in lime water to produce the color.



( p.37 )

1. Produced in Hanawa, Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: "Akane"(Rubia akane) or "Shikon"(root of Murasaki, Lithospermum erythrorhizon ) is used as dye. The cloths are silk("Habutae" and "Tsumugi") and cotton, plain dyed or dapple dyed with 4 kinds of designs: "Omasu" "Komasu" "Tatewaku" and "Hanawa Shibori".
3. Uses: Garments, sashes, handkerchief (for tea ceremonies) and minor items.
4. History: "Akane" or "Murasaki" which grew wild, was used as dye since the Nara Period in this district. As the Feudal Clan of Nanbu gave them protection, the dyeing developed to an industry and the products were sent to Edo to be used as gifts to the Imperial Court and the Shogunate. After the Meiji Restoration(1868), the industry declined following the loss of feudal protection and also with the introduction of chemicals which became popular. And, in spite of coping with such difficulties as the lack of raw materials and long periods necessary for production, the Kuriyama Family still till today has been maintaining the "Akane" and "Shikon" dyeing.

Dyeing Method

The following is the method of dyeing a silk cloth.
1. Pre-dyeing: The cloths soaked in lye are dried in the sun on clear days from May to September. The work is repeated 130 times for the "Akane Zome" and 20 times for "Shikon Zome". After that the cloths are kept untouched for a year.
2. Tie-dyeing: Designs are given by dyeing manually or with wood plates.
3. Dyeing: Cloths are soaked in a dye liquid in a big tub. This task is repeated ten or more times until the desirable color is attained. The work is done on clear days as the cloths are dried in the sun.
4. Finishing: Ties are loosened and the cloths are kept in a cabinet for 2 to 4 years to fix the color.



( p.38 )

1. Produced in Shiratakacho Nishiokitamagun, Yamagata Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: A high quality hand woven silk, as precious as "Yuki Tsumugi" and "Oshima Tsumugi". This is a cloth with splashed patterns such as "kikko"(literally, tortoise shell) and "juji" literally cross. Raw silk threads are used for the warp and for the patterns and special thread, called "Omeshi ito" for the woof, which gives crimps to the cloth.
3. Uses: garments.
4. History: Yonezo Komatsu succeeded in weaving this fabric in 1929 after studying and developing the traditional technique in the district.



( p.39 )

1. Produced in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: The threads used for this fabric are dyed with "Benibana"(Carthamus tinctorius, safflower).
3. Uses: Clothing.

4. History: The Benibana's origin was in Egypt and was transplanted in old times to Japan via India and China. The Benibana, it is said, was first cultivated in this district in the end of the Muromachi Period. It is also said that the Feudal Lord, Yoshimitsu Mogami, of the Yamagata Castle had it transplanted or that merchants had brought it into this district.
The Benibana in this district was called "Mogami Koka"(Benibana in Mogami, old name of the district) and was most popular as a dye and cosmetic, called "Kyo Beni"(rouge in Kyoto) in the Edo Period. The production, however, fell in the Meiji Period when chemical dyes became popular and the Benibana became an illusional flower just after the World War II.
In the early 1950's , there were those who hoped to revive the Benibana dyeing and started studying how to grow it and how to use it as a dye. In 1964, they succeeded in producing Benibana Tsumugi, pongee, and produced here: "Osaen Benibana Tsumugi" dyed with Benibana, "Ai"(indigo), walnut and "Kariyasu"(Miscanthus tinctorius) and "Benibana Teori Tsumugi", hand woven pongee.

Dyeing Method

1. The Benibana, which are picked when they are mostly blossoming, are trampled by bare foot and then fermented. A solid, called "Benibana Mochi" is made after the fermented flowers are crushed, dried and pressed.
2. The Benibana solid, which is put in a hemp bag, is soaked in tepid water for two hours until the water gets yellow. This process is repeated twice. The yellow liquid can be used as liquid dye for yellow.
3. The Benibana solid is soaked in a tepid potassium carbonate liquid, and a reddish liquid is obtained. The liquid becomes the dye used for the Benibana Tsumugi.
4. Both red and yellow are extracted from Benibana. If indigo is added, it is possible to obtain any color.



( p.40 Āj

1. Produced in Nagai City, Yonezawa City , Nishi Okitamagun, Yamagata Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Fabric woven with large "Kasuri" patterns. Specific threading with the threads called "Hatcho Nenshi" gives the fabric a calm color. As the quality and designs are similar to those of "Kasuri Tsumugi"(splash pattern pongee) in Ryukyu, Okinawa, it is also called "Yone Ryu", abridged from Yonezawa Ryukyu Tsumugi.
3. Uses: Kimono, Haori(coat for kimono).
4. History: As a result of the introduction of sericulture, silkworm raising "Choma" or "Karamushi" ramie, Bochmeria nipononivea, was replaced by silk. A remarkable development was made in 1751 to 1822, when the Feudal Lord Yozan Uesugi encouraged lower class warriors to work on weaving at home, inviting weaving specialists from Kyoto and Ojiya, in Niigata Prefecture and indigo dyeing specialists from Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. His effort was effective for the improvement of the Nagai Tsumugi and the market expanded to Edo(Tokyo), Kyoto and Osaka: the Tsumugi then was called "Okitama Tsumugi".
At the end of the Edo Period, Tsumugi with resemblance to the one in Ryukyu(Okinawa) was produced. The "Yone Ryu" was named in early Meiji by tradesmen although it is unknown who did it. In the Meiji Period, the name was changed to "Nagai Tsumugi". As influenced by "Oshima Tsumugi" which was popular in Meiji to the Taisho Era, the color became dark brown. There are many kinds of colors today including dark blue, indigo, and white and called "Kon Gasuri" and "Shiro Gasuri".

Dyeing Method

Both warp and woof threads are dyed with plant dyes after being processed with a wood-plate tie dye method.



( p.41 )

1. Produced in Morioka city, Iwate Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Fabric woven with wool manually span and dyed with plant dyes.
3. Uses: Western clothes("Yofuku") ,coat, sashes, shawls, mufflers, neckties.
4. History: Sheep breeding started and weaving techniques were instructed by a British missionary inn this region in early Meiji. A Ms. Otoko Umehara made efforts for production and popularization in the Taisho and Showa Eras, obtaining official recognition as the special product of the Prefecture.




1. Produced in Iwaizumimachi Shimoheigun, Hanaizumimachi Nishiiwai-gun, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Silk and cotton fabric dyed with Shikon, roots of Murasaki, Lithospermum erythrorhizon, and Akane Rubia akane. The color is mostly purple. There are 2 kinds: one is the Shibori(dapple) made of dyed cloth: the way is called Ato Zome, after dyeing, and the other Tsumugi, pongee, the fabric made of dyed threads called Sakizome, before-dyeing.

3. Uses: Kimono, sashes, bed linen and cushion cloths.
4. History: The origin is obscure but it has a history of 300 years, probably because good quality Shikon was obtained in this region. It has been a special product till the end of the Edo Period with the protection of the feudal government of Nanbu. Since the Kanbun Era(1789-1801) in the Edo Period, the Nanbu pongee was well known in Japan as it was an item to be dedicated to the Shogunate. Stripe patterns, after the era, came out after specialists were invited from Kyoto. Today, the tradition of cloth dyeing is maintained by the Fujita Family in Morioka City and that of thread dyeing by the Yaegashi Family in Iwaizumimachi. However, traditional Iwaizumi Nanbu pongee is not woven today because Fuji and Fuki Yaegashi, who are designated as "Intangible Cultural Properties", are very old. The Hanaizumi pongee is woven by Mr. Shimpei Onodera today.

Dyeing Method

The roots of Murasaki and Akane are used for the dye and the mordant is the lye of Nishigori tree.
1. Ato Zome, after-dyeing
Patterns, drawn on cloth with Aobana, sap taken from the flower of Murasaki Tsuyukusa, Tradescantia reflexa, are sewn with cotton threads. The cloth is dyed after the tie dye technique is applied with Nui maki or Take maki in which cotton threads or bamboo sheaths are used for tying. After the tied cloths are soaked in the dye, the threads are drawn out and the dyed cloth is steamed.
2. Saki Zome, Before dyeing
The stages of work are required to put the threads in the lye and to put them to dry in the sun. Then, the threads are put in the liquid, called Gojiru, obtained by grinding sodden soybeans. This process is repeated 3 times. Then the threads are kept for 1 year. After that, the dried threads are soaked 5 to 6 times in the dye and finally dried in the shade. Taumugi is woven by hand.



( p.43 )

1. Produced in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Stencil dyeing applied to cotton and pongee with indigo and other plant dyes, such as Shikon and Akane. Long used old patterns are still in use. The stencil was used in the Edo Period for Kosode(kimono) and Kamishimo(set of half garment and skirt) both worn over Kosode as warrior costumes. There are about 300 kinds of patterns, including Komon, all-over patterns, Kasuri, and Nanbu Takewari, family crest of Nanbu clan.
3.Uses: Sashes, interior items.
4. History: The original dyer was Zensuke Hirukoya who lived in Yamanashi Prefecture. He dyed small flags "Sashimono" and warrior’s coats which were worn over the armor "Jinbaori", both of which were used in battle. His family followed the feudal lord in 1633 when the Nanbu clan was ordered to move to Morioka. He named himself the first Somemoto(headmaster of the technique). Mr. Saburo Ono, present dyer, is the 16th master of this dyeing technique. In "Kodai Katazome"(literally, old days stencil dyeing) paper sheets of patterns, paper cutting and dyeing techniques have been inherited from older generations.

Dyeing Method

The Hikizome technique is used mainly with indigo. It is a technique of dyeing cloth using a brush.



( p.44 )

1. Produced in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Thick silk fabric with stripes, compactly woven. Although the fabric is tough, the touch is soft and the surface is elegant and lustrous. Stiff and straightened, the fabric does not yield any vertical wrinkles and gives rise to rustling when the user walks. Regarded as the best for “ Hakama” (skirt) since the old days, it is said to be so tough as it is able to be used for 4 generations.
3. Uses: Male Hakama, neckties, purses, tobacco pouches.
4. History: The origin is said to be Seigo Ori which was woven by Yaemon Komatsu who was invited from Kyoto by the Feudal Lord Yoshimura Date around 1735. Though very popularly used by warriors in the Edo Period, the needs decreased after World War II. Only one weaving factory, named Koda, keeps the tradition today.



( p.44 )

1. Produced in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. 2.Characteristics: Woven on a loom with silk warp and weft of paper threads produced by twisting cut up handmade paper. Well ventilated, light and soft, and durable. 3. Uses: Once widely used for summer cloth. Today, for pouches and small items. 4. History: Good quality paper was produced in this district in the Edo Period. The cloths were first made as a side business by the warrior class. The quality was improved and demand increased since the fabric became one of the items used as gifts to the Shogun. With the end of the feudal system at the Meiji Restoration (1868) the production came to an end. A Chutaro Sato revived the production and the fabric became a useful substitute to meet the lack of textile in the years of WWII.


( p.45 )

1. Produced in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: " Cloth " made completely of hand made paper.
3. Uses: Mainly used to keep warmth.
4. History: "Kamiko", paper cloth, is said to have been used in year 730-750. It has some religious origin; paper cloths were good for Buddhist monks in training in that the kamiko does not ventilate and was warm for monks in the cold temples in contrast to hemp cloth which ventilates. The monks did not feel uneasy about killing silkworms for silk nor for hiring women for its production. These facts conformed to the Buddhist discipline. Buddhist monks used the paper cloth, Kesa, surplice. This tradition can be seen today in Omizutori", a Buddhist event at Todaiji Temple in Nara.
The Kamiko was also used by warriors who had to stay outside in the battle fields in winter. In the Edo Period, the cloth was used by common people for warm keeping and also for "futon" (mat) cloth, produced in many regions in Japan. However, the Shiroishi Kamiko is the only paper cloth produced in Japan today.

Dyeing Method

The paper is made of " Kozo" ( Broussonetia kazinoki) persimmon juice or paste obtained from "Konnyaku" (Amorphophalus konjac) is applied to the paper and the paper is softened by crumpling. Plant dyes are mainly used and the patterns are "komon"(all over small patterns,) and those seen in Sarasa, Javanese silk with patterns of men, animals, birds and flowers.



( p.46)

1. Produced in Kurikoma City, Miyagi Prefecture.
2. Characteristics: Hemp cloth dyed with indigo which is fermented at a normal temperature in early summer. The method is called "Hiyashi Zome" (cold dyeing ) and the simplest way to dye as additional heating is not applied. In "Shoai Zome ", all the stages of labor of hemp planting, indigo sowing, spinning, weaving and dyeing are all processed independently without relying on others for any part of it.
3. History: The "Hiyashi Zome" technique is said to be originated in the Nara Period. The Federal Government of the Date Family encouraged the planting of indigo in the Edo Period. As the farmers were forbidden to wear silk garments and the climate was not good for cotton planting, they planted hemp. Hemp weaving and indigo dyeing were exclusively engaged by women and the technique was handed down through generations. In 1955, Ayano Chiba was designated as the holder of the "Important Intangible Cultural Property".

Dyeing Method

1. Hemp seeds are sown in April and it harvests in late July or early August. Spinning and weaving are done in winter.
2. Indigo
Seeds are sown in rice nursery in the middle of April. When ripened, the indigo is reaped in early July and in August. The leaves of indigo are taken off from the stems just after they are reaped and they are dried in the sun. The dried leaves are scrubbed with the hands. After this process is repeated 2 or 3 times, they are put into straw bags for keeping.
In Feburuary the indigo leaves are cleaned with water and piled up on the "Aidoko" (indigo bed)of straw mat which is put over rice chaff and rice straw. A straw mat and rice straw are put over the indigo leaves. They get fermented and heated in 3 or 4 days. They are watered and put upside down every 1 or 2 weeks. The process is repeated until the leaves have no more heat. Then they are left untouched until April.
In April, the indigo leaves are taken out of the bed and put in a mortar to be beaten. The beaten indigo leaves are made into balls 10 centimeter in diameter called "Aidama" and are dried.After drying, the balls are broken into lumps with the size of chestnuts and stored . The indigo lump and burnt charcoal ash are put together in a wood tub in water 35 degrees centigrade. Water is added every day for a week. When foam is formed in the tub after a week, all of it is blended until the color of the foam becomes dark purple. This is how the "Aijiru" is processed and it is called "Aidate"(indigo dye making).
3. Dyeing
Hemp cloths are boiled and then bleached in water. Then the process is repeated 3 times- soaking the cloths in the "Aijiru"(indigo dye) for half an hour and then drying them to get the color. The dyed cloths are cleaned in water and treated with soy-bean juice "Gojiru" and dried in the shade.



( p.48 )

1. Produced in Aizuwakamatsu City, Aizusakashitamachi Kawanuma gun, Shiokawamachi, Inawashiromachi Yamagun, Fukushima Prefecture.
2.Characteristics: A striped designed cotton fabric dyed with indigo, tough and absorbent.
3. Uses: Working clothes, everyday clothes and pouches.
4. History: Home woven cotton cloths have been made in this district since olden days.The Aizu Momen as merchandise started around 1643 when Masayuki Hoshina, Feudal Lord, encouraged wives and daughters of warriors to be engaged in weaving as side work. When spun threads were provided well in the middle of the Meiji Period, Aizu Momen became drastically popular in the market. The production reached its height in late Meiji and early Taisho Eras as the climate was favorable for indigo planting.

Last modified:10-December-1997