The beauty of fine jet-black color | traditional Japanese crafts in Aichi

black crested dye

Nagoya Kuromontsukezome is Beautiful jet-black dyeing

Nagoya Kuromontsukizome (Nagoya black
crested dye) is a dyed fabric produced in and around Nagoya City, Aichi
Prefecture. It is a garment worn at weddings and funerals, and has been popular
among both feudal clansmen and the general public in Nagoya since the Edo
period (1603-1868). The main characteristic of Nagoya Kuromontsuke Dyeing is
its clear, beautiful black color. The highly pure jet black color does not fade
easily. The deep, well-dyed, high-quality black is favored by many people.
Another characteristic of Nagoya black montsuke dyeing is the vivid black color
produced by two methods: “hitizome,” in which a mold of the family
crest is used for dyeing, and “hikizome,” in which the family crest
is drawn by hand afterwards. Generally, famous dyeing products are Kyo-yuzen and Kaga-yuzen with gorgeous color, but Kuromontsukezome has never gotten abandoned its root as black-oriented dyeing technic. 

  • Dip-dyeing

This is Nagoya’s unique
“Montsu-amitsuke” technique, in which the fabric is dipped in hot
dye to be dyed.

  • Dyeing

The area where the family crest is to be
placed is treated with dye-proof paste, and the crest is later hand-drawn on
the undyed area of the fabric.

Nagoya black crested dye


Origin and Development

The beginning of Nagoya black crest dyeing
can be traced back to 1611 in the early Edo period. Flags and banners made by
the Owari clan at that time were the origin of Nagoya black montsuke dyeing.
The family in charge of manufacturing flags and banners in the Owari domain was
the Kosakai family, which was recognized by Tokugawa Ieyasu as the head of the
konyagashira (a konya). A konya was a dyer, and the owner of a store was also
called the same.

Active in the Kosakai family as a
konya-hashira was Shinzaemon Kosakai, a warrior of the Owari clan. Kosakai
Shinzaemon, who made kimono and other clothing for the clan, also produced a
variety of other dyed goods to support people’s lives. At the time, Nagoya was
a prosperous castle town of the Owari Tokugawa family, and it would develop
into a craft city as large as Edo. In this context, the culture of dyeing also
developed further, and the demand from people increased.

As more people needed dyed goods,
production increased even more. In addition to Kosakai Shinzaemon, many other
craftsmen who made high-quality flags and banners appeared on the scene, each
improving their own techniques. In 1830, a black crest dyer named Bunsuke
invented a technique called “monkatagami itajime,” which became very
popular. The monkatagami itajime technique evolved further with the changing
times. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the technique of using a wire mesh
instead of the traditional board was developed.

Today’s Nagoya kuromonzuke dyeing is based
on this technique called mon-atsu kanamitsuke (mon-atsu wire mesh attachment).
This is a technique unique to Nagoya that cannot be seen in other production
areas, and the spirit of respecting the crest has also been firmly passed down.
Incidentally, the history of crests is even longer, dating back to the Heian
period (794-1192). At that time, it was attached to oxcarts and other vehicles,
and was used only by a small portion of the population, but gradually it became
a mark of the samurai class and spread to the general public in the Edo period.
Even today, the crest is still used as a family crest on formal clothing and
other items. If you like black or Dark blue fabric, you would also love Kimono with Shiozawa pongee.

Black crested dye
Source: Rumi Rock Store

Accredited Technics


1. “Mon-tsui-yori” shall be done by one of the following techniques. 

1-1 For dip-dyeing, both sides of the pattern paper shall be pasted together using a “monto-net”.

1-2 For dip-dyeing, a pattern paper and a “paper cylinder” shall be used. 2) For dip-dyeing, either of the following techniques or techniques shall be used.

2. Dyeing shall be done by one of the following techniques.

2-1. In dip-dyeing, the fabric shall be pre-dyed with red or indigo, and then dyed with the main dye. 

2-2. For dyeing, one of the following techniques shall be used: a. “Sanshiki Kuro” (black with three black stripes)

a. In the case of “Sanbiki Kuro,” after pre-dyeing with indigo, two or more dyeing processes shall be carried out using vegetable dye as the main dye and mordant dye, etc., respectively.

b. In the case of Torohiki B&W, after under-dyeing with BENI or AI, Torohiki Dyeing shall be applied.

3. in the case of overprinting, hand-painting or imprinting on pattern paper with an engraved crest.

Production Process


To ensure that the black color of the cloth
will be evenly and beautifully dyed, the scum of the white cloth is removed.
The body of the sleeves, collar, etc. are inked on the cleaned fabric, and the
position of the crest is determined.

2. Crest pattern attachment

A piece of cardboard with a family crest
pattern is pasted on both sides of the fabric where the crest will be placed.

3. Attaching the crest

To prevent the pattern from coming off or
slipping off, a brass wire mesh (about 5 cm in diameter) is placed over the
area where the pattern is pasted onto the family crest, and tightened with thread.

4. Pre-dyeing

The fabric is soaked in water to prevent
the dye from soaking into the pattern. After that, the fabric is pre-dyed with
either “Benishita” or “Aishita” dyes. Beni-shita” is
for women’s wear and Kansai style, while “Aishita” is for men’s wear
and Kanto style, and the dyed texture is slightly different. After deciding on
the dye, prepare the dye dissolved in boiling water of 80 to 90 degrees Celsius
in a container called a dyeing bath, and soak the fabric in it. The fabric is
then dyed for 10 to 15 minutes, shaking it from time to time to prevent uneven

5. Hon Kuro Dyeing

There are two types of techniques used for
honkoku-dyeing: black dip-dyeing and black hitome-dyeing. In black dip dyeing,
black dye is added as needed in a dyebath at 90 to 95 degrees Celsius, and the
pre-dyed fabric is dipped into the bath, and then dyed for 30 to 40 minutes
while shaking occasionally to prevent unevenness in color. The fabric is then
left to soak overnight, after which the monto wire mesh and stencil are removed
from the fabric. The fabric is then carefully washed to remove excess dye and
allowed to dry naturally.

6. Mon-uwaerae

The family crest is hand-painted on the
white-dyed monba by the stencil and wire mesh, using high-quality ink with low
amounts of nikawara (an organic protein of animal origin) and a very fine
brush, protractor, and ruler, with the skillful technique of a craftsman. This
family crest will not come off even if the item is sent to a dry-cleaner for
washing, and even if it gets dirty, it will be restored to its beautiful state
by careful washing.

black crested dye

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