Omi fabric with Refreshing texture of hemp and elegant unique kasuri pattern | traditional Japanese crafts in Shiga


Omi fabric

Omi fabric (Omi Jofu) is elegant yet soft to the touch

Omi Jofu is a hemp fabric made in and
around Aichi and Kanzaki-gun in Shiga Prefecture and is a
traditional craft. Shiga Prefecture is home to Lake Biwa, the largest lake in
Japan, which divides the prefecture into four regions (Kohoku, Koto, Konan, and
Kosai). The linen produced in the Koto region is of high quality and has been
valued since ancient times, and was called “Takamiya cloth” in the
old days because it was gathered at Takamiya-juku on the Nakasendo Road.

What is Jofu?

Jofu is a cloth of higher quality than
other textile products, named after its use in the Edo period (1603-1867) as a
top delivery item to clans and the Edo shogunate. It is a fabric woven with
hemp fibers. The production areas of Jofu are Echigo, Noto, Omi, Miyako, and

Omi jofu is characterized by its soft texture,
fine grain, kasuri pattern, and cool colors. Since ancient times, hemp cloth
has been made from hemp, but due to recent regulations on hemp cultivation,
ramie (ramie) has been used for general products. However, the traditional Omi Jofu
fabric called Kibira is basically made from handspun hemp yarn. However, due to
a combination of production volume and cultivation regulations, ramie is also
an important raw material for Omi Jofu today, and since the Koto region has a
thriving agricultural industry, it boasts the largest amount of this material
grown in Japan. Kyo-yuzen is also dyeing technic that has developed in neighboring prefecture Kyoto, but despite the proximity, they are absolutely different from each other.  

Omi Jofu is also characterized by its elegant
kasuri pattern. The kasuri pattern can be either weft-silk or long-and-short
kasuri, and it is said that the stencil printing used for weft-silk kasuri is a
unique technique developed in Omi. The weft and warp kasuri patterns are dyed
using a comb-like tool called kushioshi-gatlin, and because of the
time-consuming nature of the process, it is called the “fantastic top
quality cloth” and is highly valued as a top-quality product.

Omi fabric
Source: Someichikai

History of Omi Jofu

The origin of Omi jofu is said to date back
to the first year of Houtoku (1449), when it was produced as Takamiya cloth and
presented to the Shogunate and Shinto shrines. According to documents, it has
been produced for a long time, and in the Edo period, the Ii family, the lords
of the Hikoe domain, encouraged the production of hemp cloth. The high quality
linen cloth was valued as “Takamiya cloth,” and the Hikone domain
protected its production and offered it to the shoguns.

As time went by, weaving was changed from
white cloth to stripes, indigo-dyed fabrics, etc., and these fabrics came to be
worn as ordinary kimonos. The Hata clan, which invited weavers from Kyoto’s
Taimata, mastered the weaving technique, and the climate around Lake Biwa was
suitable for weaving, leading to the formation of the area as a production
center. The Omi Jofu developed from white to striped and then to kasuri, and
during the Kaei era, itajime kasuri was invented and indigo-dyed kasuri was
produced along with kushi-gatari and itajime kasuri.

It is said that the production was spread
throughout Japan by the Omi merchants. The Omi merchants sold Takamiya cloth throughout
the country and brought back ramie from the Tohoku region, which not only
gained recognition from many people, but also greatly contributed to the
development of the technique. Dyeing techniques were also developed
independently, and in the late 1700s, significant progress was made in
production using techniques such as “itajime” and
“kushio-natsusome. In the Showa period (1926-1989), the “katagami
nakizome” technique using stencils was developed. In 1977, Omi Jofu was
designated as a traditional craft.

Production Methods and Processes

1. Design

First, the cloth design is determined. In
katagami textile printing, in which matching threads are dyed using stencils,
stencils are made for each color, so as many stencils as the number of colors
to be used are prepared. In addition, it is necessary to design the pattern by
considering the arrangement of the pattern so that there are no seams between
the stencils. In “comb-over textile printing,” both warp and weft
yarns are designed to be used as kasuri yarn, and the position and width of the
warp and weft yarns are determined according to the pattern, and a feather
ruler with marks on a piece of cardboard is made. This work requires precision.

2. Dyeing

In katagami textile printing, before
dyeing, a process called hane-maki (feather rolling) is performed. In
“hane-maki,” the weft yarn is wound around a metal frame, a stencil
is placed on it, and dye is placed on the yarn with a spatula. After dyeing the
yarn so that there are no seams in the pattern, the yarn is steamed in a
steamer for about 10 minutes to fix the color, then rinsed in water and left to
dry. Usually, only the weft threads are dyed as the pattern of the kasuri, or
yoko-kasuri. Other dyeing methods include “kukurizome” and “kushi-ushi-textile

Kushi-ushi-printing” is a technique
used for weaving a combination of warp and weft with kasuri yarn. A ruler is
made to match the pattern, ink marks are placed on the threads hanging on the
pole frame for each bundle, and dyeing is done using a comb-shaped tool. The
comb can be made of brass or cypress, and the curved back of the comb allows
the dye to soak into the lined threads evenly. The position and width of dyeing
varies depending on the pattern, but various kasuri threads are created by using
thin or thick combs and soaking the dye into the threads in the same way as
stamping. This process produces the vividly colored kasuri patterns that are
unique to Omi Jofu. This method does not bind the threads, so there is less
strain on the threads, and the dyeing process is characterized by a clear,
crisp finish. Since hemp yarn tends to bleed easily, the type of glue mixed
with the dye is also carefully considered.

3. Kasuri separation

After dyeing, the weft yarns are separated
one by one from the feather rolls, rewound to match the pattern, and made into
skeins. The skeins of thread are then rewound onto a thread frame and further
wound onto a small tube. The weft is now ready for weaving. The warp threads
are separated into base threads and kasuri threads and placed on the warping
table. The warp threads are then placed on the warping table and roughly
matched to the pattern, and the warp threads are placed on the interrupting
table for further fine tuning and preparation for passing through the reed.

4. Preparation of the warp

The warp threads are adjusted to the number
and length required for weaving the cloth. First, the warp threads are passed
through the reed using an osadoshi (reed-threader) and spread out so that the
warp threads are the width of the weave. Next, the warp threads are threaded
through the eye of the heddle. This creates a shuttle path for the weft yarns
during weaving.

5. Hand Weaving

Once the preparation is complete, weaving
begins. Omi Jofu is woven on a high loom. Hemp threads are much easier to break
than silk threads, so weaving is done with the utmost care. Weaving is
time-consuming and requires a lot of patience to weave carefully so that the
kasuri pattern does not deviate. When the cloth is to be shrunken, it is
finished by a shrinking process called shibotsuki, in which the woven cloth is
hand-rubbed to create a fluffy, light-textured Omi Jofu.”

Omi fabric
Souce: Sugoude craftsmen


Omi Jofu Traditional Industry Hall

Omi jofu traditional Industry Hall

Address: 32-2 Aichigawa, Aisho-cho,
Aichi-gun, Shiga Prefecture
Phone number: 0749-42-3246
Business hours: [Shop] 10:00-17:00 [Textile
workshop] 10:00-16:30
Online store:


Omi jofu traditional Industry Hall
Biwako visitors Bureau

Omi jofu traditional Industry Hall
Biwako visitors Bureau
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