Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center

Explore the history and craftsmanship of Japan's most beautiful KImono

The kimono is a symbol of Japanese culture that is known all over the world.

The present form of the kimono originated in the Heian Period (8th-12th c). Known as “kosode” to begin with, it evolved in the Momoyama and Edo periods (16th-19th c). The kimono is a practical type of clothing; as it is made from fabric cut in straight lines, it is flat when folded, and can be stored easily. Moreover, people of all body types can wear a kimono. Although colors, pattern size and sleeve length differ depending on the gender and age of the wearer, as well as the situation, motifs have changed according to fashion trends. Ancient kimono designs can be found in “Hiina-gata” books, which correspond to the fashion magazines of today.

Although kimonos are no longer used as day-to-day clothing, they are worn for ceremonies and rites of passage, as well as for traditional cultural activities such as the tea ceremony and Japanese dance.

Omiyamairi Shichigosan
At “Omiya-mairi”, people report the birth of their child, who wears a “hatsugi” (first kimono) to the local deity of the shrine, and pray for their healthy growth. At “Shichi-go-san”, parents pray for their three-, five- or seven-year old child’s health and happiness. A child’s kimono is adjusted to fit as he or she grows taller. Parents buy kimonos with patterns that reflect their wishes for their children.

At “Shichi-go-san”, parents pray for their three-, five- or seven-year old child’s health and happiness.

Parents buy kimonos with patterns that reflect their wishes for their children.

Adult Ceremony
At the coming-of-age ceremony, which is held for 20-year-olds in their home town, you can see young women wearing gorgeous long-sleeved kimonos. This type of kimono is worn by young women to look their best for special occasions.
The number of Western-style weddings has been increasing, but there are still many couples who wish to have a traditional Shinto-style wedding wearing a kimono. The bride changes from a wedding dress into a kimono at the wedding reception. Normally, the bride wears a gorgeous, colorful kimono, and the mothers of the bride and bridegroom wear a kurotomesode (black formal kimono) decorated beautifully at the bottom. Kurotomesode is the formal attire for married women. 

Unmarried female wedding guests wear a long-sleeved kimono with gorgeous patterns, and married women wear a half-sleeve kimono with subdued patterns (irotomesode).

Kimono patterns differ according to the occasion, the person, the season, etc. The graceful colors and designs used in Yuzen dyeing are appropriate for a variety of situations and requirements.

Five distinctive colors used in Kaga Yuzen dyeing
The subdued colors of Kaga-gosai, or five Kaga colors (dark crimson, yellow ocher, green, indigo, and purple) are used as the base colors for Kaga Yuzen. Elements from nature such as flowers, birds and landscapes are depicted realistically as decoration. Embroidery and gold leaf are rarely used for Kaga Yuzen kimonos; dyeing is the main form of embellishment.
Blur Dyeing
The technique of color gradation is used in Yuzen dyeing to emphasize the realism of the designs.
“Mushi-kui,” a technique used to depict dead leaves and create vermicular designs, is particular to Kaga Yuzen dyeing. It makes the expression vivid as the focal point of the design.
Kyo Yuzen
Kyoto Yuzen is characterized by large, clear pictures in bright colors, which can be distinguished at a distance. The classical and geometrical patterns used as motifs give the impression of a gorgeous woven fabric, and sometimes embroidery and gold leaf are used for decoration.
Miyazaki Yuzensai
The history of Yuzen dyeing dates back to the early to mid Edo Period. Yuzensai Miyazaki (dates unknown), who played an active role in fan decoration, designed “Yuzen” patterns for kosode kimonos, and his patterns became very popular. Dyeing techniques involving the use of rice paste to prevent color transfer and partial coloring were established in those days. These techniques made it possible to use Yuzen Miyazaki’s free-style designs, and enabled a variety of expression in kimono dyeing. Yuzen dyeing is thought to have been named after Yuzen Miyazaki.
Dyed Scrolls
Hanging scrolls are one of the traditional Japanese types of paintings. The picture is protected by layers of paper on the back, and framed by gorgeous woven fabric applied around the edges of the scroll. The scroll can be rolled up when not in use. In the late Edo Period, many simplified dyed scrolls were produced. As shown in the figure, both the picture and the woven decoration were dyed. Many such scrolls were produced in the Kaga region. A dyed scroll depicting a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, which was produced by Kaga’s Tarodaya dyeing company, is housed in a temple in distant Tokushima Prefecture.
The work of Kaga Yuzen artists
Kaga Yuzen artists are in charge of creating designs, drawing sketches and coloring. They create designs based on the sketches that they draw every day. After checking the balance of the overall design, they draw a sketch on full-scale paper. Then a white cloth is placed over the sketch and a copy of the design in blue is made from spiderwort. Rice paste is placed along the lines of the design, and color is applied with a paintbrush. Since it is the work at this stage that determines the beauty and grace of the finished product, a high level of skill and sense of color are required.
Work by Masking artist
Rice paste made of steamed rice powder is squeezed from a tube to draw lines according to the sketch. This process, called “Itome-nori,” creates a barrier that prevents dyestuffs from spreading to other areas. The white lines that appear after the rice paste is washed out of the cloth complement the color and pattern of the kimono and give a sense of perspective to the design. This process greatly influences the appearance of the finished kimono.
Work by Texture dyeing artis
Dye artisans conduct the processes of naka-ume (filling in with paste), ground dyeing and washing. In naka-ume, colored parts are covered with paste to prevent the ground color from spreading to the designs. Ground dyeing requires a high level of concentration and experience to keep the amount of dye and the brushing force constant, so that the ground is dyed evenly. In the washing process, paste and extra dye are washed out with water. This is hard work because cold water has to be used even in winter.
Preservation of Techniques
Yuzen artists not only follow the traditional style of the region, but also adopt new designs that meet the needs of the times. Contemporary artists produce Yuzen kimonos with new designs while preserving traditional Yuzen dyeing techniques and the beauty of pictures drawn by hand.
Credits: All media
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