Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No558


photo by Stuart Rankin


Today, we like to tell about textile and people in Edo period.

*******Before that, we have been asked to cooperate a survey by college students from Kansai University-our friend teaches there. The students would like the answers from abroad. If you have a minute to answer the questionnaire, we will be grateful. It is about job-hunting and business suit.  Business suit? You may think it is a trivial matter, but because of the sever situation of job hunting, young people are seeking for the way seriously.


domo arigato gozaimasu, thank you very much!



http://amzn.to/1ok72rG by Kunihiko Hiroiwa

I have been recommended this book from other older seller-the book is so informative and tells about the history of garment around Edo period.

The author was working as a newspeperman but was studying about history of fabric as his life work. He was interested in Shima-koshi(stripes and chequered) pattern. It is an elaborate work and his book surprised everyone in this old and vintage textile field in Japan. The book is the result of his enthusiastic research. The book includes so much deep and wide information, it is not possible to introduce all the contents, so we just like to introduce the rough points.

What surprised me most was aesthetic sense of the people in that era. They had the eyes for the beautiful and could tell the very slight difference!


We have learned Edo period was the time of repetition of splendor and soberness. There was a freedom once and then the ruller gave restriction about what people wear to details. Each Shogun had their own principles and sometimes they controlled the details of the lives of each class including samurai and ordinary people. They made rules about what they wear, so as you could imagine, expensive and fine silk was for limited people only. However, there are people who loves to do `oshare'(smart dressing), and they used their ingenuity-enjoy to put dressy lining, finding materials which were not prohibited and also enjoyed oshare in not showy way but more subtle way. People loved stripe designs and also competed to obtain nice cotton and tsumugi silk.

The highest quality cotton at that time was Tozan(cotton woven fabric usually with vertical stripes) and Sarasa(chintz)from India. Japanese cotton at that time was made of short fiber and the smooth and thin cotton from India enchanted Japanese who wanted oshare(loved the beautiful things)- they thought their cotton was like silk.

Another thing which has been appreciated was Yuki tsumugi. Yuki tsumugi do not have flashy look but the quaity, especially the texture was beyond any other silk. Yuki tsumugi weaving is done by tremendous work-hand spun, hand woven by Izari bata, ground looms.

This procedure is just unbelievable now but it has been considered the same at that era also. The procedure seemed just so inefficient and too much work and time, but the Yuki tsumugi won the favor of real fashion lovers and people who dealt silk. Yuki became an exceptional textile. As the author of this book mentioned, Yuki survived because of its uniqueness.

What impressed me was the fact that people at that time found the quality of cotton from abroad and appreciated Yuki tsumugi quality. In 1820's, people from the Netherlands who visited Japan was so surprised to see people in Edo wearing older cotton - rather than the newer cotton imported at that time, because they knew the cotton came in older time had better quality, so they valued the quality. They said, `Storing older things carefully-that is the unique Japanese culture as well as the craftsmen's work and technique'.

At that time, supremacy over India moved from the Netherlands to UK and East India Company by the Netherlands was dissolvd-Tozan and Sarasa lost their original quality.  Also by the Industrial Revolution, handspun and handwoven procedure shifted to mills. If the words by the people from the Netherlands were true, Japanese at that time responded the change and found which one was better quality-and found the value in older textile, they were sold by higher cost.

Our ancesters had eyes to tell the quality of fabrics-but what about now? How many of us can tell the difference between hand woven cotton and machine woven cotton? 

People do not have the eyes for the beautiful things anymore? Or because of the progress of machines and techniques, things could be produced easily with the similar quality with the things made by hand?
We wonder what happened to our eyes and judgement to tell the quality of things around.