Artistic textile products of Kiryu-ori | Traditional Japanese crafts in Gunma



Gunma prefecture stands for traditional textile crafts 

Today, we will discuss traditional Japanese
crafts in Gunma Prefecture. Tochigi Prefecture is located about 5 hours north of
Tokyo by car. The textile industry has developed since ancient times, and the
prefecture has developed as a supplier of textile products to the Tokyo
metropolitan area. Traditional crafts are also centered on textiles, and we
would like to introduce two of the most famous textiles in the prefecture.


What is Kiryu-ori?

Kiryuuori is a textile produced in and
around Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. The present-day Kiryu City is blessed with
a favorable climate and topography, and has long flourished as a region where
sericulture has flourished. Kiryu is known as “Nishijin in the west and
Kiryu in the east” for its high quality textiles, which were developed by
introducing technology from the advanced Nishijin region (Kyoto) and the West.

The greatest attraction of Kiryu is that it
has all the weaving, knitting, dyeing, embroidery, processing, and sewing
processes required to make clothing. The presence of ironworks that manufacture
small parts for looms and yarn mills that have been around since ancient times
is another advantage of this historic production center. It is no exaggeration
to say that everything related to textiles is concentrated in Kiryu, and
“you can always find what you want here”. In addition, Kiryu Orimono
handles all synthetic, semi-synthetic, and natural fibers, including nylon,
rayon, polyester, cupro, acetate, hemp, cotton, bemberk, and wool, and constantly
attempts to create new fabrics by mixing many different materials into a single


Kiryu textiles are characterized by seven
weaving techniques.

  • Omeshiori
  • Weft brocade
  • Vertical Nishikiori
  • Fu-tsu-ori (wind-through weave)
  • Ukitate-ori
  • Tatekasuri monori (long weave)
  • Mojiri-ori (hemp yarn woven into coarse

 With its soft texture and luster, it is
widely used for everything from high-end kimonos to clothing and accessories.
Kiryu City still strives to revitalize the industry under the name of Fashion
Town Kiryu.

Each weaving house is truly unique. Some
have been established for a long time, others have moved here from other
places, and some have combined weaving and knitting or collaborated with other
textile production areas to develop unique products, and visitors will be
surprised at the diversity and innovation. Textiles are made by combining warp
and weft yarns. Although its composition is simple, the number of textiles that
can be expressed is infinite when the types and thicknesses of yarns used,
colors, dyeing, density, weaving methods, and processing are also considered.
Kiryu’s weavers are constantly challenging these infinite possibilities.


History of Kiryu Orimono

The origin of textiles in Kiryu dates back
to the Nara Period, about 1,300 years ago. The first mention of the origin of
textiles in historical records is found in the Shoku Nihongi, which states that
in 713 (6th year of the Wado Period), a tax (chou) for Ueno was established and
paid in the following year (7th year of the Wado Period). This indicates that
the textile industry has been active in this area since ancient times.

In the late Edo period (1603-1867), the
division of labor in the handicraft production system was established in Kiryu,
and a manufactory system was established. The abundant supply of high-quality
silkworms from the foot of Mt. Akagi led to a bustling silk weaving market, and
Kiryu evolved into a textile industrial city.

In the early Showa period (1926-1989),
there were 9,820 power looms equipped with Jacquard looms and 1,128 associate
looms equipped with dobbies, and Kiryu textiles changed into patterned fabrics
with a complex structure. During World War II, the state control was tightened
and large factories were converted to munitions factories, and the war ended
with the textile industry in a state of devastation. However, Kiryu was quick
to resume production by restoring more than 3,000 looms under the Loom
Restoration Project. Products for export, such as rayon scarves, contributed
greatly to postwar reconstruction, and Kiryu was restored as a textile town.

Eventually, as people’s lifestyles changed,
the textile industry began to attract people’s attention as a fashion industry.
In 1977, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated the above seven
weaving techniques as traditional crafts, while Kiryu textiles have also made
great progress in the field of western textiles, including export fabrics,
women’s clothing fabrics, and interior materials. The company also began
holding numerous exhibitions both in Japan and abroad.

Kiryu-ori with Sanrio

Types of Kiryu-ori

Kiryu produced a wide variety of fabrics by
skillfully layering a wide range of techniques, including yarn-dyeing,
post-dyeing, printing, and knitting, while utilizing a composite of various
materials from natural fibers such as raw silk to chemical fibers, mainly on
Jacquard and dobby machines. The company’s products are available in the
following languages.

What is Jacquard weaving?

Jacquard weaving is so called because a
Frenchman, Joseph Marie Jacquard, developed the “Jacquard loom. Instead of
printing on the fabric, complex and detailed patterns and designs are directly
woven into the fabric while controlling each warp thread individually. 10 cm
large patterns can be created, giving the fabric itself a three-dimensional
feel and rich expression, and it does not fade like printed fabric.

Kiryu is known for its fine and versatile
multiple weaves and its high cutting technology for cut jacquard. Most of the
cutting is done by hand, a craftsmanship that requires time to acquire the
know-how and skills for the tools. When elaborate cuts are required for a
design, Kiryu is able to meet such requests, and the one-of-a-kind sense of
luxury created by its skillful cutting techniques always attracts the attention
of many people in the fashion industry.

What is dobby weaving?

Since dobby weaving moves a certain number
of warp threads up and down together, it is suitable for fabrics with
continuous patterns such as small patterns of a few millimeters, checks,
stripes, and small one-pointed patterns. In contrast to the expressive
expression of Jacquard weave, dobby weave can produce a dense structure,
resulting in a very smooth and neat fabric.


Kiryu became a silk production center
because (1) it has long been able to produce silk, (2) the soil was unsuitable
for agriculture, (3) Kiryu was enthusiastic about introducing new technology,
and (6) the production organization was more flexible than that of Nishijin. 
The combination of these conditions has
created a traditional Japanese craft that has continued for more than 1,000

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