Kyo Yuzen, a traditional craft of beauty and splendor born in Kyoto

Source: Kimonoto

Kyo Yuzen is one of Japan’s traditional
crafts in textile industry along with Nishijin brocade

Kyo-yuzen is reputed to be overwhelmingly beautiful. Its beauty is appreciated not only in Japan but all over the world. For example, Youtube videos showing the production process of Kyo-Yuzen have received praise from all over the world. The beauty of this traditional Japanese craft is beyond the realm of traditional crafts and has reached the level of art. Kyo-yuzen, one of the three major Yuzen (others, Kaga Yuzen and Edo Yuzen) in Japan, is characterized by its glamorous embroidery using gold and silver threads, gold leaf, and shibori (tie-dyeing). People are constantly fascinated by its overwhelming beauty and become fans.

Characteristics of Kyoto Yuzen


Kyo Yuzen is characterized by elegant,
stylized patterns, such as Kacho Fugetsu (flowers, birds, winds, and the moon)
and Yukoku patterns. Compared to Kaga Yuzen, which is characterized by
realistic depictions of flowers and plants, Kyo Yuzen is centered on
traditional patterns designed in the court and court noble style, and detailed
patterns such as chintz.

Multi-colored Colors

While Kaga Yuzen is based on five basic
colors, known as “Kaga Gosai,” Kyo Yuzen has no fixed basic colors.
In Kyo-yuzen, however, there is no fixed color scheme. The creativity and sense
of color of the craftsman is especially important in coloring, and it is said
that “no two pieces are alike,” so many vivid colors are used.
 Furthermore, Kyo-Yuzen is quite the opposite of Nagoya Kuromon-Tsukizome which focuses on black color.

Embroidery and Foil Finishing

Kyo-yuzen is not only elaborately dyed, but
also finished with gold and silver foil and gold and silver embroidery on the
threads to create a more glamorous atmosphere. As embroidery and gold gauze
were forbidden in the Edo period (1603-1867) when the prohibition of luxuries
was introduced, embroidery and other techniques originally flourished in Kyoto,
and these techniques were also used in Yuzen to create gorgeous kimonos that
show off gold and silver.

Specialists work in a division of labor

This division of labor differs greatly from
Kaga yuzen, where almost all work is done by a single person. There are as many
as 23 work processes in Kyo-yuzen, all of which are carried out by different
specialized craftsmen. Kyo-yuzen is made by a group of specialists who have
honed their skills in each of these processes.

Difference between Kyo-yuzen and

Nishijin brocade is a “textile (Woven
fabrics)” while Kyo-yuzen is a “dye”. In other words, they are
completely different in nature.

  • Woven fabrics“: patterns are created
    by weaving threads that have been dyed in various colors or wrapped with foil
    in advance.

  • Dyed fabric: Threads are woven into cloth
    and then dyed in various ways to create patterns.

Source: Kisste

History of Kyo Yuzen

Dyeing Techniques Evolved by the Luxury Ban

The origin of Kyo Yuzen is not clear, but
it is believed to have been influenced by the prohibition of extravagance
issued frequently during the Edo period (1603-1868). The prohibition of
extravagant embroidery using gold or colored threads and decorative methods using
layers of gold and silver leaf led to a search for ways to express beautiful
patterns without using such techniques, and a great deal of ingenuity was put
into the development of new and varied pattern dyeing. This is far different from the way of Ise-Katakami, another technic for dyeing. As a result, new and
diverse pattern dyeing techniques were developed, which later led to the
technique known as yuzen-zome. Initially, flowers, birds, and landscapes were
arranged in a circle and dyed, but the patterns gradually became larger and the
entire kimono was dyed.

The base of the technique was the dyeing
techniques of the Nara period (
kakie), the
Muromachi period (Sarasa), the Momoyama period (Tsujigahana-dye), and the Edo
period (Chaya-dye). The techniques that had been cultivated in Kyoto were
synthesized to create the basis for a technique that could be called the
culmination of dyeing.

Yuzen dyeing began to flourish at the end
of the 17th century with Miyazaki Yuzen.

It was not only the technique that evolved.
Innovations also occurred in design. The key figure was Miyazaki Yuzen, a fan
painter active in Kyoto around the end of the 17th century. The new designs
created by Miyazaki Yuzen inspired dyeing artisans in the Horikawa area of
Kyoto. Using the dyeing techniques they had developed, they developed kimonos
incorporating the pictorial designs of yuzen, which were well received. The new
dyed garments born in Kyoto were called Yuzen-zome(dyeing), after Miyazaki Yuzen, and
took the world by storm, revolutionizing fashion trends in the Edo period.

In “Genji Hinagata” (1687), the
first document in which the name Yuzen-dye appears, it is written that
“yuzen-dye was popular not only for fans but also for kosode (short
sleeves),” indicating its popularity. On the other hand, the technique of
kyo-Komon, which spread from samurai Kamishimo (formal samurai dress), was
almost completed around the 17th century. It developed independently while
influencing Kyo-Yuzen.

Source: Mouri Gofuku

The Birth of Kata Yuzen in the Meiji Period

From the Edo period to the early Meiji
period, Kyo yuzen was hand-painted yuzen, which was expensive and out of reach
of the common people. The first step toward the popularization of yuzen was the
use of chemical dyes. New technology was also introduced to dyes. Around the
end of the Edo period, chemical dyes began to be imported, and by the Meiji
period (1868-1912), they were rapidly spreading. However, although chemical
dyes made it easy to produce vivid colors, the corresponding dyeing technology
had not yet caught up, and colors tended to fade easily and were not well

In 1881, Horikawa succeeded in dyeing a
then-popular woolen fabric called “muslin” with yuzen using
“Utsushi-nori,” or colored glue. It was Jisuke Hirose of Kyoto who
applied the dyeing technique using paper stencils and saguishi to crepe de
chirimen and dyed crepe de chirimen. Hirose, who was a master of Sashi Yuzen,
had doubts about the fact that hand-painted Yuzen was too expensive for the
common people to wear.

With the aspiration of spreading yuzen to
the common people, he learned the technique from Horikawa and conducted his own
research while adopting techniques from overseas. At first, due to his
technical inexperience, his work was sometimes called “miai yuzen”
(meaning “confusing yuzen”). Eventually, however, he arrived at a
method of dyeing by layering many sheets of katagami to create the unique
beauty of the kata, rather than imitating hand-drawn patterns. In the 1887s,
the number of yuzen stencil dyeing companies increased rapidly, and yuzen
dyeing became more and more popular. Yuzen dyeing became popular among the
general public. In 1976, Kyo yuzen and Kyo komon were designated as national
traditional crafts, and are still loved as representative dyed goods in Japan.

Kyo-yuzen today

New approaches have also appeared in line
with the times. SOO (Somar), a Kyo Yuzen brand, was born in 2016. Amid
declining demand for kimonos, four young business owners involved in kyo yuzen
crossed company boundaries to launch the brand in hopes of making kyo yuzen
easily accessible to customers. They have developed “Ofuki,” a
glasses cleaning cloth that can be used in daily life, while maintaining the
technique and beauty of Kyo Yuzen. They are attracting attention as a new type
of Kyoto souvenir.

Source: Kyoto Kimono Yuzen

Production Method and Process

1. Drafting (shite)

Kyo-yuzen is a labor-intensive product that
involves many processes and is made by hand by specialized craftsmen working
under the division of labor. First, patterns and sizes are designed. After the
draftsman has thought of the pattern and made sketches, he draws a design of
the same dimensions as the kimono. Next, the drafts are drawn on a piece of
cloth called karieba, which is cut to the size of the kimono and temporarily
sewn, using a blue flower solution. Aohana, which can be extracted from the
Ohashibana flower, is ideal for underpainting because it disappears when it
comes into contact with water.

2. Itome Norioki

In this process, glue called itome nori is
placed along the contour lines of the underpainting so that adjacent colors do
not bleed into each other. After placing the glue, only the blue flowers are
washed away with water so that only the glue remains clean. From this point on,
the fabric is hooked on both sides and pulled. This process is called jiire, in
which soy bean juice (gojyu) is applied with a brush and immediately dried over
a fire. This allows the starch from the soybeans to soak into the fabric,
making it easier to blend with the dyeing process.

3. Iro-sashi

Iro-sashi is the process of inserting
colors into the fabric on which itome-tsugi has been placed according to the
sketch. The fabric is heated by an electric heater or charcoal fire to dry the
dye while the colors are painted with brushes and brushes. This is a work in
which skilled craftsmanship shines through, and a variety of colors are colored
as if painting on a campus. It takes years to mix the dyes to produce the
desired color.

4. Fuse Norioki

Fuse-norioki is a process in which glue or
wax is applied to the pattern after it has been inserted in order to prevent
the base color from entering the pattern during the base dyeing process that
follows. This process prevents dyeing completely. In the base dyeing process,
colors are applied to the base with a brush. Various techniques can be used,
such as blotting and double-dyeing. Once the entire fabric is dyed in the base
color, the next step is steaming. 

After removing all the paste, wax, etc., in a
volatile rinse, the fabric is steamed to allow the dye to thoroughly absorb
into the fabric. After steaming is completed, the fabric is rinsed with water
to completely wash off any excess. In addition, tension and hot water rinsing
are used to make the fabric soft and silky. In the past, rinsing was done in
beautiful rivers such as the Kamo River and the Hori River, and was called
yuzen nagashi, a scene enjoyed by the townspeople.

5. Finishing

The finishing work is the decorative
process of placing gold or platinum foil, sanding, embroidery, and so on. There
is a technique called “gold processing,” in which glue and other
materials are placed and then glued on top. Other techniques include itome,
solid foil, surihaku, kirifoil, sunago, tataki, morigami foil, and momihaku.
Vivid and delicate colors can be expressed with the addition of embroidery
using threads to create an even more gorgeous and exuberant atmosphere. Today,
katazome (stencil dyeing) and copy-dyeing are widely used, but when making
furisode and tomesode, yuzen dyeing work is carefully applied, and gold
processing and embroidery expand the world of art.

Source: Kimonoto


Next →

 1        2        3        4        5       

Let's share this post !