Kaga Yuzen | The eye-catching beauty and gorgeous look for Kimono


Kaga Yuzen combining beauty and serenity

Kaga Yuzen is a kimono technique whose foundation was laid by Miyazaki Yuzenzai during the Genroku era of the Edo period. In other words, it is one of the Japanese kimono production methods. The name “yuzen” is derived from the name of Miyazaki Yuzenzai, and like Kaga Yuzen, Kyo Yuzen (Kyoto kimono) was also founded by “Miyazaki Yuzenzai”. However, as time went by, differences in regional characteristics and techniques emerged, and the names “Kaga Yuzen” and “KyoYuzen” came to be used separately.

In the Edo period, Kaga Yuzen could not be worn by the general public. Only women of the samurai class and above or women of wealthy merchants were allowed to wear sleeves, and in many cases they were used only for ceremonial dress, indicating that Kaga Yuzen had been treated as something very noble for a long time.

Source: Kimono culture library

Origin and History

The origins of Kaga yuzen can be traced back to “ume-zome,” a dyeing technique used in the Kaga region about 500 years ago, and by the mid-17th century, the so-called Kaga Gokokuzome technics
of kanefusa-zome, iroe, and iroe patterns had been established. The delicate technique of iroe pattern in particular is said to have been the origin of Kaga yuzen. After these dyeing techniques were almost completely established, Kaga Yuzen entered a period of great development with the appearance of Miyazaki Yuzenzai, the founder of Kaga Yuzen and the originator of its name. Yuzenzai left Kyoto in the middle of the Edo period for Kanazawa to work for Tarodaya, a master navy blue shop owner, where he improved the design of Gokokuzome and perfected yuzen paste, thus laying the foundation for the brilliant Kaga yuzen style.

kaga yuzen

Five Characteristics of Kaga Yuzen

While Kyo yuzen is a gorgeous and flamboyant kimono with many gold threads, Kaga yuzen was used as a ceremonial dress for the samurai class, and thus has a calmness characteristic of the samurai class. Compared to Kyo yuzen, which has been nurtured in places with different climates and histories, there are many points that can only be seen in Kaga yuzen, and we will introduce five of the most representative characteristics of Kaga yuzen.

  • Kaga yuzen has a realistic pictorial style, and often uses nature as a motif, such as floral and floral patterns.

  • The colors used are based on the Kaga five-color scheme (rouge, ochre, indigo, grass, and ancient purple).
  • Insect-eaten techniques are used to depict insect-eaten marks on leaves and flowers, just as they do on plants in nature.
  • The “tip blur technique” (where the outer side is gradually darkened and the inner side is gradually lightened) is used.
  • Basically, gold embroidery and gold processing are not used.

Comparison with Kyo Yuzen

Kaga Yuzen is characterized first of all by a pictorial style centering on realistic floral patterns. Compared to Kyo yuzen, which is characterized by gorgeous designs, Kaga yuzen has a more relaxed, samurai-like atmosphere. Kaga Yuzen also has a colorful style that makes the most of a red system based on five colors (indigo, rouge, ochre, grass, and ancient purple), which is different from Kyo Yuzen, which has a light blue monochromatic style.

In terms of technique, Kaga yuzen skillfully depicts natural beauty by accentuating the thickness of lines, blurring, and insect bites. Another technique is itome nori. The main purpose of this technique is to prevent the use of colored lines, but when it is washed off with water, delicate white lines such as leaf stripes of flowers and streams of water emerge, enhancing the decorative effect.

Kaga yuzen grew up in the samurai culture of Kaga Hyakumangoku, and many master craftsmen, including Kimura Uzan, who was designated a living national treasure, were born, producing nationally renowned artists. This tradition is still carried on today, and many artists are vigorously engaged in creative activities.

Kaga Yuzen – Production Process

1. Design Design

The yuzen artist decides on a new design and pattern while utilizing the traditions of Kaga yuzen, and creates a design. This is the most painstaking process for the yuzen artist, who imagines the figure and age of the person who will wear the kimono, and expresses the natural beauty of Kanazawa with patterns and colors in the style of a painting.

2. Tentative tailoring

White fabric is cut into the shape of a kimono, including the sleeves, collar, and body, and sewn temporarily. Tango Chirimen (Kyoto), Hama Chirimen (Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture), and silk from Ishikawa Prefecture are used for the fabric.

3. Draft Drawing

The draft is placed on a glass copying table and illuminated from below. The draft is then placed on a white cloth, which has been temporarily tailored, and the draft is drawn with a fine line, tracing the sketch with a brush. In some cases, the underpainting is drawn directly on the white fabric. For underpainting, the juice of dewdrops called “aohana,” which disappear when wet with water, is used. In keeping with traditional techniques, craftsmen insist on hand-painting, which is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

4. Glue placement

This is the process of drawing a thin layer of glue along the lines of the underpainting while squeezing out the fine glue (dezuri) from the tip of a special tube. This glue is called itome nori. This process prevents dyes from mixing or bleeding out during the coloring process.

5. Ji-in

A thin layer of “gojiru” or thin layer of “funori” is applied from the reverse side, and then dried over a fire. This process removes the blue and white underglaze blue and adheres itome nori (glue) to the fabric.

6. Coloring

Various dyes are used to color the fabric based on the traditional Kaga Gosai colors. This is a process of quickly applying different patterns using brushes and small brushes. The colored colors are then allowed to set, and the fabric is steamed to prevent the dye from being absorbed by the glue in the next process of filling in the middle.

7. Filling in the middle

In this process, glue made from glutinous rice is used to fill in the entire pattern as a prelude to the next step of base dyeing. This process prevents the base color from entering into the colored areas and keeps the colors vivid.

8. Ground Dyeing

A large brush is used to apply the base color to the unpainted areas. This process requires a high level of skill and experience to ensure that the base color (the overall color of the kimono) is applied evenly, and is also called “Hiki-zome.

9. Steaming

After the base dyeing has dried, the fabric is placed in a steaming box and steamed. Steaming expands the fibers and allows the dye on the surface of the fabric to enter the fiber tissue, thus fixing the dye.

10. Water washing

The fabric is soaked in running water to wash away glue and excess dye from the colored areas. In the past, this process was done in a natural river, and this process is known as “Yuzen-nagashi,” a traditional Kanazawa custom. Today, most of the dyeing is done in artificial rivers in dyeing complexes.

11. Completion

After rinsing, the fabric is dried, rinsed in hot water, and finished with pigments, etc., and then the color is corrected to complete Kaga Yuzen.


Kaga Yuzen is described as beautiful like a painting. The beauty of the fibers and the beautiful colors produced by the clear melting snow in Ishikawa, an area with heavy snowfall. It is a lineage of one of the traditional Japanese kimono produced by the climatic conditions unique to this region. We invite you to experience the beauty of Kaga Yuzen, which can only be expressed through the traditional techniques that traditional craftspeople continue to use today.

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