Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts /[Maiwai Jacket] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS
Maiwai-zome refers to the dyeing process of a kimono-related garment that celebrates the sea’s bounty. At the Suzusome studio, established 1925, everything from design to tailoring is done by one family. On seeing the maiwai-zome robe, shopkeeper KASHIYUKA said, “…so bold, so colorful. You can see the roots of the tairyobata (auspicious fishing flags)...”
Every time I see things like ukiyo-e (antique pop art-style prints), ancient Noh theatre costumes, and tairyobata fishing flags, I’m reminded of how cool traditional Japanese graphics are. Lately, I learned that the roots of those flags are in the dyeing technique of maiwai-zome, and that it’s still being practiced in Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture.

“Maiwai represents festivity celebrating a bountiful catch. The custom evolved during the Edo period covering the 17th to 19th centuries in a fishing village on the Bōsō peninsula, now part of Chiba prefecture. Over time, when fishing boat owners wanted to announce a huge haul, they’d distribute special robe-like coats dyed with the maiwai-zome technique to their boatwrights and fishers. This was, incidentally, the same technique used for their flags,” says Mr. Kosuke Suzuki, third-generation artisan at Suzusome studio, one of only two maiwai-zome studios remaining in the Bōsō area.
Purchase No. 30【Maiwai Jacket】A festive robe heralding good fortune, born of a seaport town’s tradition
Maiwai-zome is a stencil patterning method employing cut paper outlines to apply rice-based resist dyeing paste onto the textile, followed by the application of various colors. Its characteristic features are standout primary colors, and symbols of good fortune, like the crane, the turtle, and treasure ships. On this visit I was introduced to the application of the vivid colors.
Colors are applied and fixed, and then rice paste is selectively reapplied, and the textile dipped in a vat of indigo to color the base material.
“Red, brown, yellow, green, black, and other colors are mixed with gojiru, liquid extracted from saturated soybeans, that we make every day. The color is applied with a brush, by the same methods used in ages past,” says fourth-generation artisan, Mr. Riki Suzuki.

It’s he who showed me that the application is done one color at a time, just red, then just blue, and so on. The longer robe and short hanten jackets are constructed by sewing together two lengths of completed textile side by side. It’s especially difficult to apply the colors so that the depth of concentration and lines of pattern match with exacting perfection on the left and right sides. Edges of color are dithered, and gradients are created by addition of water or another color before the initial color is fully fixed, contributing to a three-dimensional effect. Therefore, the two artisans are jointly skilled in both dyeing and painting techniques.