Hakata-ori is one of Japan’s Famous traditional textile products


Along with Nishijin brocade, Hakata-ori is one of Japan’s finest traditional textiles

Hakata-ori is a silk fabric considered a specialty of Fukuoka Prefecture. It is one of the three major textiles in Japan, along with Nishijin brocade and Kiryu brocade, and is designated as a traditional craft with a history of approximately 800 years. The reason for the popularity of this traditional craft is that the obi, once fastened, is difficult to loosen and is very functional. This feature is the reason why it is also valued in Kabuki (traditional Japanese theater), where many performers move around.

Hakata-ori is characterized by the use of yarn-dyed threads, with a large number of fine warp threads and thick weft threads strongly beaten into the fabric to weave a pattern so that the warp threads mainly stand out. Because the fabric is thick and taut, it is suitable for use as an obi for a kimono rather than as a fabric woven (such as Omi Fabric or Awa Sho-ai Shijiraori) into a kimono.

However, today, in addition to traditional obi production, many gift products, neckties, rugs, and other products are also manufactured. Hakata-ori products bear a certificate issued by the Hakata-ori Industrial Association, which can be used as an indicator to spot fakes.

Hkata-ori Kimono
source: Katei Gahou.com

Nishijin brocade and Hakata brocade are known as the twin peaks of textile production. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between them.

1. Weave pattern

The biggest difference is that Nishijin brocade uses weft threads to weave patterns, while Hakata brocade uses warp threads to express them. The number of warp threads is about 1.5 times more than that of Nishijin. The same width of an obi with more warp threads means that each thread is finer and more densely woven.

It is a well-known story that the obi is very difficult to loosen due to its density and makes a squeaking sound when tightened. In the Edo period (1603-1867), it was used by samurai to support a sword at their waist, and today it is used as a women’s datejime, which is a remnant of this tradition.

2. Decoration and design

The Nishijin style has gorgeous patterns, such as seasonal flowers and flowers and aristocratic patterns, while Hakata-ori is known for its “dedication” patterns. The patterns are based on the motifs of dokko and hana-asara (flower plates) and a combination of thick and thin lines called oyako-shijima, from the days when men’s belts were specialized, and are called “menjo patterns” because they were presented to the shogunate by the feudal lord during the Edo period.

3. History

The Nishijin textile has a history of more than 1,000 years counting from before the name “Nishijin” was added to the name of women’s obi. It gained popularity. Nowadays, gorgeous Nishijin-chic patterns are also being woven. Patterned obis that match with Kyoto-derived kimono Desigins such as Kaga Yuzen and Kyo Yuzen are now being made.

Source: https://kougei-expo.com/fukuoka/hakataori/

History of Hakata-ori

Silk fabric has been produced in the Hakata area of Fukuoka Prefecture since the Yayoi period. The Yayoi period is from around the 10th century B.C. to 300 A.D. This is much older than you may have imagined. Hakata textiles were first produced around 700 to 800 years ago.

In 1241 A.D., during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), Seiichi Kokushi, the founder of Jotenji Temple, and Mitsuda Yasuemon, a young Hakata merchant, went to the Song Dynasty (then China), learned weaving techniques, and returned to Japan to create their own designs, which is said to have been the beginning of Hakata-ori. Two hundred and fifty years later, Yasuemon’s descendant, Hikosaburo, again traveled to Ming China (China at that time had a different name since the country itself had changed many times) to study weaving techniques. After returning to Japan, he continued to improve the technique and produced a thick fabric like “amber weave” with raised patterns such as floating line patterns and willow stripes.

It is said that the name “Hakata-ori” was derived from the name of the land where the fabric was produced, Hakata. In the Edo period (1603-1623), Nagamasa Kuroda (1603-1623), lord of the Chikuzen domain, offered Hakata-ori as a gift to the shogunate, and it became widely known as “Hakata for the Emperor” as well as the name of the Hakata area.

How it manufactured 

1. Designs

The process of making Hakata-ori textiles begins with the process of design, which determines the pattern. The designs are completed by coloring each weave according to the designed pattern. The design is copied on a grid and colored on each piece of fabric, a detailed process that is now made more efficient by the use of computers.

2. Dyeing (Senshoku)

The colors of Hakata-ori are determined by the “design,” so the silk threads are dyed first. Silk threads are washed in soapy water to make them shiny, and then each warp and weft thread is dyed in a cauldron filled with dyeing solution. In addition to chemical dyes, vegetable dyes are also used. The color is *affected by climatic conditions and other factors, so skillful techniques and discernment are required. The dyed yarns are then removed from the yarn to make them uniform.

*climatic conditions significantly contributes to the development of traditional Japanese crafts. If you want to learn more about it, see this page ” What has contributed to the diversity of Traditional Japanese crafts

3. Hataji-kake

Since Hakata-ori uses warp threads to create patterns, the threads are laid out and wound around a drum, and then the warp threads are connected to the loom according to the pattern, a process called hatajikake (weaving on a loom). The warp threads are then threaded onto each of the warp needles of the Jacquard machine, which raises and lowers the warp threads. The ends of the threads are then connected to the heddles, through which the silk threads are threaded, and finally through the reed. The process of “hata-jikake” requires precise following of the instructions given by the “design” and also requires a lot of patience as many delicate silk threads are handled.

4. Weaving

Hakata-ori is also being woven by machine, but traditional hand weaving is done using a technique called “Uchikaeri,” or three-weave weaving. A shuttle containing the weft threads is driven into the warp threads with great force using a reed. The tension and fineness of the fabric is refined by the amount of force used. The loom also needs to be carefully adjusted according to climatic conditions and other factors, and skilled weavers’ experience is essential to weaving the same fabric. Hakata-ori does not have a post-dyeing process, so once woven, the fabric is inspected as it is before being made into products.

Hakata brocade
source: https://hakataori.or.jp/


While Hakata-ori values the tradition that has been handed down for hundreds of years, there are many modern and surprisingly fresh Hakata-ori products that at first glance may not seem to be Hakata-ori at all. Not too formal, not too casual, there are many products produced that are just right for an adult kimono style. This supple yet strong and beautiful Hakata-ori obi can be used not only for special occasions, but also for daily use for a long time.


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