Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Nishijin Weaves

Location: Kyoto City, Kyoto Pref.

 Number of companies: 1,757

 Number of workers: 22,258



Pinnacle of Textile Art Colored by 1200-year-old Tradition 

Nishijin weave, made in Kyoto, is a traditional style of art with a history of 1200 years. The gorgeous weaves made using colored and gold brocade and satin are rated highly worldwide for their artistic value. At the end of the 8th century when Kyoto was established as a capital, high-class woven textiles started to be made in the area to meet the demand of the Imperial court and aristocracy. Later, Nishijin weaves came to be used for costumes for Noh theater, the oldest form of traditional Japanese performing art, and the costumes play an indispensable role in creating the graceful stage effects of the Noh stage. 

In the 15th century, Kyoto was devastated by ten years of civil war. When the conflict finally ended, the weavers who had fled returned to Kyoto. Artisans settled on the site where the western army had camped during the war, and established the weaving techniques that have been passed down to today. This is the origin of the name "Nishijin," which means "west position." 

Nowadays Nishijin weaves are used in clothing for weddings and other formal occasions, and Nishijin kimonos are still much worn and appreciated. The source of their enduring popularity lies not only in their excellent designs, but also in the technique that is unrivaled in sophistication and elaboration. Most of the designs used in Nishijin weaves are natural scenery, especially flowers and birds. The rich natural beauty of the ancient city has provided countless design motifs for all seasons of diverse designs. Kyoto has long been the center of Japanese culture and attracted the finest artisans from around the country. They worked hard together and, as a result, the techniques became so highly refined that the weavers boasted that there was no scene or pattern that they could not reproduce in their weaving. 

Today, many Nishijin factories have introduced modern technology such as power looms and even computerized designing of templates and engraving patterns. However, the finest and most exquisite patterns unique to Nishijin weaves are still created by skilled artisans on hand looms. 

Photos: (Top) a Nishijin artisan weaving by hand; (middle) Obi (sashes for kimonos) of Nishijin weaves. (Nishijin Textile Industrial Association) 

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited.

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