Toyooka kiryu-zaiku makes the most of features of willow


The origin of the bag in Japan, Toyooka kiryu-zaiku

Toyooka kiryu-zaiku is a type of willow basket craft produced in the area centered on Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. Toyooka kiryu-zaiku is made of supple and strong osier, and is light, strong, and breathable, making it a triple-threat product. In 1992, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry designated kiryu-zaiku as a national traditional handicraft. Today, the willow bag is attracting attention as a fashionable bag with a new design, and is even used by the Imperial Family. They are especially well received for their suitability for summer kimonos, and are a wonderful match for Yuki pongee and Ojiya-chijimi.

Toyooka kiryu-zaiku is light, strong, and breathable, and it also repels insects. The reason for this is the raw material, osier, which absorbs unwanted moisture and humidity. The amount of storage can be adjusted by tightening the lid. The Toyooka kiryu-zaiku manufacturing process begins with the cultivation of the raw material osier. Osier is soft when wet, but surprisingly hard when dry. It is difficult to handle and takes more time than you might think.

Traditional craft bag

Toyooka kiryu-zaikuHistorical Background 

The great delicacy of this traditional technical technique is certainly supported by its more than 1,200 years of history. The “Tajima domestic willow box” made in the Nara period (710-794) actually exists in the Shosoin Repository at Todaiji Temple, which tells the whole story (at that time, it was used only by a few upper class people as a box for writing, wardrobe, and small articles).

The “Onin-ki” (a military chronicle of the Muromachi period) describes how willow gyo-ri was actively traded as a commodity. In the Edo period (1603-1867), the Toyooka Clan encouraged the use of willow gyo-ri, and the name “Toyooka’s willow gyo-ri” spread throughout Japan. It became a major industry in the castle town of Toyooka, and was widely used by both feudal lords and townspeople alike as a container for travel goods during daimyo’s visits to the imperial palace, merchants’ business activities, and commoners’ trips to Ise. At that time, there were many different types of goryi, and they were made to suit differentpurposes.

For Samurai

  • Armor chest: A box with a lid for storing armor.
  • Jingasa: A hat worn by low-ranking soldiers on the battlefield in place of a headband.

For merchants and civilians

  • A peddler who sells ladies’ ornaments, daily necessities, etc. on his/her back.
  • medicine dealers’ bag: apothecary – medicine seller in Ecchu-Toyama
  • Choukouri: used by merchants to carry their account books and account boards.

Other types of Bag were also popularized, such as kamishimo gori and nagashaku gori.

Toyooka Bag

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), “Gyori bags,” decorated with cowhide handles, attracted the world’s attention at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900. In the Taisho era (1912-1926), the kiryu-zaiku industry developed to the point where it was exported overseas. During the war years, kiryu-zaiku was mainly used to make military and rice wagons to feed the soldiers’ hunger. In the early Showa period (1926-1989), it is said that there were about 10,000 craftsmen involved in the kiryu industry, but the demand for willow wicker gradually declined with the development and spread of materials such as fiber and synthetic leather. As time passed in the Heisei and 2022 eras, the only craftsman to continue the traditional techniques of willow wicker baskets is Takumi Terauchi, a traditional craftsman who goes by the name of “Takumi Kogei” (Takumi Craft).

Production Method and Process of Toyooka kiryu-zaiku

1. Knitting the bottom

The process begins with knitting the bottom. The bottom is woven with thin willow branches called “a-miso” at right angles to the “tate-ri,” which is a willow tree called “tate-ri” that forms the axis of the weave.

2. Lid weaving

Next, the part that will become the lid is knitted. At this point, adjust the size of the lid so that it is wider than the tate-ri (the bottom part) knitted earlier. The “Amiso” used for the lid weaving is thin and beautiful looking willow.

3. Fix the bottom to the wooden form and attach the tateuri.

Make the sides along the perimeter of the bottom. Mark the sides so that they are evenly spaced, drill holes, and insert the tateuri. Weave the rope using the tate-iri, and then attach the braid.

4. Side Weaving

After knitting to the required height, remove the wooden pattern and do the “rim assembly”. Adjust the edge using a technique called “haimi-rim” so that the lid is snug. Finally, the two “tate-ri” are knitted together using the “shime” technique, and the unneeded parts are cut off.

5. Knitting the top

Weave in the same way as the bottom, and form it into a shape.

6. Make the handle

The handle to be attached to the lid is made by wrapping willow around a loop of rattan as a core.

7. Attach the handle to the lid

Finally, the handle is attached to the lid.

Japanese traditional bag



Oka kiryu-zaiku is characterized by the gentle texture of the natural material and the durability of the supple and strong willow. All products are woven by hand, one by one, by craftspeople. These products are full of warmth and are practical traditional crafts that blend in with daily life. There are a variety of weaving techniques: 6 types of rope weaving, 33 types of soko-ami (side weaving), and 18 types of fuchigumi (edge weaving). By combining them, various shapes can be formed. In Japan, there are other types of work that take advantage of the dexterity of the hands. An example is the Hakone wood mosaic. Traditionally, Oka kiryu-zaiku was mainly used to make square accessory containers set with lids that were used as lunch boxes, and deep round baskets, but recently, kiryu-zaiku bags with modern designs arranged in a contemporary style are also popular.


|← Izushi porcelain

 1        2        3

Let's share this post !