I love traditional kimono. I’d like to have the skill needed to properly dress myself in it. Yuki Tsumugi is something those devoted to the art of wearing kimono yearn for. This visit took me to Yuki city in Ibaraki prefecture, the birthplace of this textile variety, registered by UNESCO as an Important Intangible Cultural Property.
“Yuki Tsumugi appears in the verses of Japan’s oldest poetic collection, the Manyōshū, giving it a history dating back 1500 years,” explains Mr. Yoriyuki Okuzaka, fifth-generation proprietor of Okujun, the manufactory established in 1907. “It was treasured as an offering by those of the highest order during the ancient Nara period.” Up until the end of the Edo era in the late nineteenth century, those same producers were making textiles for the stylish and somewhat ostentatious samurai and wealthy merchant classes. But when the Meiji era arrived, introducing and popularizing fashions from the West, they started making clothes for women. Then, as now, textile production is divided by labor, with a measure of cloth to make a single garment of this type involving more than 40 separate steps to complete.
Today I was first invited to observe the silk-spinning. The pinnacle of Tsumugi textile, known as Honba Yuki Tsumugi, uses hand-spun and loomed silk fiber thread, taken directly from the cocoon.