Traditional culture and crafts in Kyoto | Nishijin Brocade


This is the Traditional Japanese craft: Fabric for Kimono

Some of the visitors of this website have visited Kyoto which captures hearts all over the world. You probably know why Kyoto is so famous in the world. The city remains various traditional culture and historical buildings you have never seen before. For example, Temples in Kyoto are not only magnificent but also unique. I admit the greatness of the historical sites and why people visiting Kyoto are eager to go and see the buildings as I lived in Kyoto when I was a university student and went around those sites showing our history.

Today, I would like to introduce another aspect of Kyoto. I guess many tourists do not know that Kyoto has been one of the most famous cities that has produced textile. Have you ever heard NISHIJIN? It refers to an area positioned around the center of Kyoto city. I will explain later but for short knowledge, Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the textile industry in Kyoto has symbolized the flourishment of the city. Kyoto is not only a city of temples. Let’s dive into the world of textiles in Kyoto!

Left: Kyoto / Right: Nishijin Area Pic: ICHI POINT

Characteristics of Nishijin brocade

Nishijin brocade is characterized as the textile product that it is a yarn-dyed fabric produced in small quantities in a wide variety. As the word “variety” implies, Nishijin brocade has a variety of weaving styles, such as “Tsuzure” and “Donsu”. Designated as a traditional craft in 1976, there are currently 12 varieties of Nishijin brocade. One of the charms of Nishijin brocade is its ability to create beautiful patterns using multi-colored threads. This is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, but the intricate patterns created by the advanced techniques and the prestigious textiles backed by history and culture can be produced. What you can imagine from the textile is Kimono. Kyoto is one of the most famous plane regarding Kimono industry. (Other traditional textile industry for Kimono are such as Yuuki pongee or Kaga yuzen)

Types of Nishijin Brocade

There are three types of looms used to produce Nishijin brocade, and they can be used for different types of fabrics.

Tebata (hand loom)

This method is woven by a craftsman using jacquard. In the past, holes were made in a thick sheet of paper called mon-gami (pattern paper) based on a pattern design and used in Jacquard, but nowadays mon-gami is rarely used and a computer is used instead to give commands to Jacquard.

The warp threads are raised and lowered (opening) according to these commands, and the weft threads are then threaded through the warp to weave. Weft insertion, insertion, and warp opening are done by craftsmen using their hands and feet.

Power loom

An automatic loom designed to increase productivity, it uses the same jacquard as a hand loom, and although the weft must be replaced when it runs out, insertion and beating of the weft and opening of the warp are also done automatically.

Binding machine

This is one of the oldest methods of leaving spelling, where the entire process is done by hand on a loom. The craftsman puts time and care into this method, and depending on the pattern, only a few centimeters of progress may be made in a day.

Nishijin Brocade for Kimono

History of Nishijin brocade

The origins of Nishijin brocade are very old, dating back to the Kofun period ( 300 A.D.). It is said that a family of the Hata clan came from the continent, settled in the area around present-day Kyoto, and introduced the techniques of sericulture and silk weaving.

In the Heian period (794-1185), the Imperial Court began to gather craftsmen under the office of “Oribe no Tsukasa,” and high-grade fabrics such as twill and brocade began to be produced. Eventually, the court’s authority was withdrawn, and craftsmen began to operate their own textile businesses.

During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), craftsmen began to gather in the town of Otoneri, and their fabrics were prized as “Oshajin Aya” and “Omiya Kinu” (high quality fabrics).

In the middle of the Muromachi period (1333-1573), Kyoto was the scene of the Onin War (1467) between the eastern and western armies, which lasted for 11 years, and the town of Oshatoneri was destroyed. Craftsmen dispersed to Sakai and other areas to escape the flames of war. After the war subsided, however, craftsmen gathered again in the Omiya-Imadegawa area, where the headquarters of the Western Army was located, and resumed their textile business. In other words, the name “Nishijin” comes from this “headquarters of the Western Army.

In the mid-Edo period, Nishijin textiles flourished with the rise of the merchants’ culture, but gradually lost its momentum due to repeated famines and large fires, as well as the relocation of the capital to Tokyo in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

However, Kyoto Prefecture was quick to ride the wave of civilization and enlightenment and dispatched artisans to Lyon, France. By introducing Jacquard weaving techniques, Kyoto succeeded in modernizing its textile industry and  solidified its position as one of the finest in Japan even today.

Nishijin ori
Nishijin brocade depicting phoenix

Nishijin textiles in recent years

If you trace the history of Nishijin textiles, you will have a strong image of them being used for kimonos and other traditional garments. Today, however, Nishijin textile artisans are using their techniques and quality to create a variety of products. For example, familiar products such as neckties, shawls, accessories, and interior goods are made from Nishijin brocade. Particularly famous are ties and bags.

Ties made of Nishijin brocade, which is made of fine fibers and can express exquisite colors, are perfect for official business occasions. It has a color that is not too flashy, but gives a sense of dignity, and its supple fiber allows you to wear the tie all day long without stress. Nishijin brocade ties are also a topic of conversation and promote communication. As a personal memory, when I was talking to a client after a business meeting, he said to me, “Your tie is beautiful,” and when I told him that it was Nishijin brocade, a traditional craft, he was very interested. When we successfully closed the deal, I presented him with a Nishijin brocade tie, which is only available in Japan, and he was very pleased. Although it is not a high-brand necktie that everyone in the world knows, I felt again that it is a wonderful traditional technique that connects people to each other.


$225.40 USD

tie with Nishijin textle


$225.40 USD 




$225.40 USD 


As for bags, Very cute, yet well-made bags are in the market. Designed to look good with a kimono, these bags are relatively small. Although it is made with Japanese patterns, it is simple nough to fit with any clothing. Each piece is handmade on a loom, and its durability is outstanding due to the care with which it is made.


$448.55 USD



$448.55 USD


Comment from Vendor:

We have developed an elegant bag that
matches both Western and Japanese clothes, using our original Japanese
patterns, in the hope that people will feel more familiar with Nishijin brocade
and Japanese patterns. We aimed for a simple design that people of all ages
would enjoy and never get tired of! Please enjoy the tradition of Nishijin
textiles close at hand.


As Japanese culture has become westernized, Nishijin textiles have retained their traditions and inherited their values to meet the needs of the modern age. We invite you to experience the wonder of Nishijin textiles. And when you visit Kyoto, why not take a tour of Nishijin textiles?

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