High Quality Silk Fabric Produced in Tango Province of Northern Kyoto Prefecture

What is Tango Chirimen?
Tango chirimen is a high quality silk fabric produced in the Tango District of northern Kyoto Prefecture.
Mainly produced in Kyotango-shi and Yosano-cho, it is the local industry of the Tango area being one of the largest silk fabric producing areas in the country consuming up to 1/3 of the raw silk in Japan.  The chirimen fabric is dyed and sewn outside of Tango, being often shipped as plain white cloth to wholesalers around Muromachi street in Kyoto city to be to be made into products.
How Chirimen is Woven
Chirimen, is crepe, a silk fabric with crimped weave. Highly twisted weft threads are woven into a warp of untwisted raw silk threads. The wefts are raw silk twisted about 3,000 4,000 to times per meters and woven in alternating S and Z twist. After the fabric is woven, it is passed through a refinement process where the sericin and impurities are removed. This shrinks the silk as the weft threads try to untwist, which results in the fine crimped, bumpy texture (shibo) that characterizes Tango chirimen.
The History of Tango Chirimen
The Tango area has a rainy climate with high humidity. Since dryness is detrimental to silk, Tango is highly suitable for the production of silk fabrics. With these optimum environmental conditions, silk fabrics have been produced in Tango even before the ‘chirimen’ was introduced to the region.
The History of Tango Chirimen: 2
The technique of chirimen is said to have been imported from China to Sakai (Osaka) some time between 1573 to 1592 and subsequently introduced to the Nishijin weaving district in Kyoto. During the Edo period in 1720, Kinuya Saheji and others from the Tango Mineyama Domain (now Kyotango-shi Mineyama Town) apprenticed at Kyoto Nishijin and then brought the techniques to the Tango area. The secret methods of twisting the silk thread and adding texture to the fabric spread quickly throughout the Tango region and took root as a local industry known as the "Tango chirimen" we see today.
Production Process of Tango Chirimen: Preparing the Threads (itokuri) and Warping
The preparation of the silk to weave Tango chirimen starts by winding the raw silk that comes from the spinning factory in a form of a skein (kase) on to a frame bobbin (itowaku). From 2,000 up to 4,000 warp threads are needed for one width of Tango chirimen fabric. Before setting the warp on the loom, the warp must be measured and the tension adjusted by winding the threads from the bobbins onto a warp beam This warping process is called ‘seikei’ in Japanese.
Production Process of Tango Chirimen: Spinning of the Silk
The twist of the weft has the most influence on the chirimen and its texture. Using  Hatchobori twister, the dampened weft is given a strong twist of from 3,000 to 4,000 rotations per meter, thus creating the foundation for the texture.
Production Proses of Tango Chirimen: Weaving
The warp threads are set on to the loom to weave the chiirmen fabric. Un-patterned fabric is woven in plain weave and patterned fabric is woven on a jacquard loom, which enables weaving complex designs by using punch cards. In recent years, it has become possible to make even more complex designs by using computers to process the patterns into data that then can be set into the jacquard controller.
Production Process of Tango Chirimen: Refinement (Seiren)
The refinement process to take away the sericin and impurities is called seiren. When 1 kg of cloth undergoes seiren of about 8 hours, it becomes 3/4 (750 g) of its original weight. Through this process, the fabric becomes softer and more lustrous as is characteristic of silk.
Recently, products such as cosmetics and bath salts have been developed using the sericin extracted during the refinement process.
Production Process of Tango Chirimen: Finishing
After the fabric is refined, it is then dried and the width and length are adjusted to comply a specified measurements (habadashi). The plain white cloth undergoes strict inspection, where it is checked very carefully for scratches and knots.
Only those fabrics that have passed the inspection are given the union's "examination passed stamp" and "local production brand mark" that functions as proof that they are "Tango chirimen" before being shipped.
Current Initiatives
In addition to chirimen, the Tango area has also served as a production base for Nishijin. Even now, they produce plain silk for dyeing and thus plays an important role as a supply site for dyeing Yuzen and other kimono fabrics. However, in recent years new attempts to create original Tango products and reach out into fields such as western clothing have become an active movement in Tango chirimen development. 
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported by:
Kyotango City
Yosano town

Information provided by:
Tango Textile Industry Association 
KUSKA Co., Ltd.
Creative Workshop ITOASOBI
Isshiki textile co.,ltd
Tamiya Raden co.,ltd
Tayuh the textile industry co.,ltd

Text written by:
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Movie by:
Kyoto Prefectural Institute for Northern Industry 

Photo by:
Kuwajima Kaoru

English Translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

Edited by:
Melissa Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Exhibition created by:
Naito Yukie, Ritsumeikan University

Directed by:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.