What is Awa Shijira?
Awa shijira fabrics are textiles produced in Tokushima prefecture. The unique texture and its tactile feel is created by the uneven surface of the fabric (shibo). "Awa Shoai Shijira Fabrics" using natural Awa indigo dye were designated a Traditional Craft of Japan in 1978. 
The Origin of Awa Shijira Fabrics
During the Meiji Restoration, a skilled weaver called Hana Kaifu/Amabe? lived in the village of Ataku in Awa. One day she found that a striped kimono hanging outside had gotten wet in a sudden shower. When the rain stopped and the kimono dried under the summer sun, Hana discovered it had a textured surface that she had never seen before. This was the starting point of the shigira weave. Taking inspiration from this coincidence, Hana repeatedly experimented in ways to develop a new striped highly textured fabric, shigira.
The Peak Period and Subsequent Decline
Around 1877 approximately 1,500,000 bolts of cloth were produced, and by 1919 the prefecture celebrated peak production with more than 200 weaving workshops employing more than 5,000 workers. However, in the Taisho period (1912-26), chemical production of the dye component of indigo was industrialized, resulting in a deline in demand for Awa sijira textiles.
Revitalization After the War
During and after the war, cotton was nationally regulated, forcing the production of the shijira fabrics to be shut down. When the regulation was abolished in 1951, production was restarted. Reestablishment of shijira and its traditional techniques, however, was not easy; especially problematic was the fermentation of the indigo-leaf bath (aidate). In honor of their efforts and success in preparing the fermented indigo bath, the technique received the designation of being a Traditional Craft of Japan in July 1978.
The Beauty of Awa Shijira Fabrics
The bumpy, uneven surface texture known as shibo is characteristic of Awa shijira and created by the warps having varied tensions. The tactile texture has a unique and subtle beauty with a cool crisp feel. 
Awa-ai: Indigo Cultivated in Tokushima (Awa) Prefecture
The indigo produced in Tokushima prefecture is called Awa-ai. It has been cultivated in the Yoshino River area for a long time. By the mid-Edo period (eighteenth century) Awa ai was sold thoughout the country as a dye for cotton largely used for commoners’ garments. Until about 1898, Indigo dyed textile of Awa area were widely distributed in Japan. Advantageous effects of dyeing with natural indigo include its repelling insects, deoderizing, and strenghtening the fabric.
Production Process of Awa Shijira Fabric: Reeling into Skeins (Kaseage)
The spun threads are set on the reeling machine and wound round and round to make skeins (kaseage). In the form of skeins, the thread is easier to dye and to rewind after dyeing.
Production Process of Awa Shijira Fabric: Dyeing
Composted dry indigo leaves called "sukumo" are placed in an Otani-yaki vat and fermented to make the dye. To maintain the optimum temperature for indigo dyeing, the vat is buried in the ground.
Production Process of Awa Shijira Fabric: Rinse with Water
The thread or cloth is immersed in the dye vat and then rinsed with water. When it is exposed to the air; the indigo changes to blue.
Production Process of Awa Shijira Fabric: Weaving
The number of warp threads for one kimono width are measured to the length of one kimono in a determined color arrangement and then wound onto the warp beam. The combination of a dense 1:1 plain weave structure with a looser structure where adjacent threads are used together as a unit results in uneven tension, which gives the fabric a bumpy texture. 
Changes over Time
From the Meiji to the Showa periods, Awa shijira fabrics were a part of people's lives, being used for garments that brought out the comforting texture of the fabric. Women mainly wore shijira as casual unlined kimono and men as jinbei. In more modern days, ties, shirts, and interior goods are made in response to changing times.
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information and images provided by:

Namba Sakiko, Kyoto Women's University
Takechi Miho, Kyoto Women's University
Tanigawa Masumi, Kyoto Women's University
Kato Rika, Kyoto Women's University

Namba Sakiko, Kyoto Women's University

English Translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

English Edited by:
Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

This exhibition is created by:
Namba Sakiko,Takechi Miho,Tanigawa Masumi,Kato Rika Kyoto Women's University

Project Directer:
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.
Translate with Google