History of Nishijin-Ori

Nishijin-Ori is one of the most renowned KIMONO fabrics in Japan and is a traditional Japanese craft with a 1200-year history. It is a yarn-dyed pattern woven fabric where colored yarns are woven into patterns.

Nishijin-ori’s origins are said to date back to around the 5th century, when Chinese from mainland China settled in the area now known as Kyoto passed down the techniques of sericulture and silk fabrics.

Around the 10th century, the Imperial court created an organization to preserve silk fabric technology and had them produce high-quality textiles such as twill and brocade.As is said that the essence of Nishijin-Ori is "Expressing the world of paintings through textiles", it uses a broader array of colors compared to other traditional textiles. Known for its highly-decorative designs, it was used not only as KIMONO fabric but also for accessories for aristocrats.

In 1467, the Ohnin War broke out in Kyoto, forcing many craftsmen to flee the war to Osaka and Yamaguchi prefectures. Kyoto’s weaving industry was in tatters. After the war ended, however, the craftsmen returned to Kyoto and revived the weaving industry around Omiya and Imadegawa, the then headquarters of the Western Army (“Nishijin” in Japanese) during the war. As such, the name “Nishijin-Ori” is derived from the camp of the Western Army, Nishijin.

Since then, Nishijin-Ori and its production area Nishijin gained recognition from the Imperial court and received protection from Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the then most powerful general. This brought Nishijin-Ori to rapidly develop and achieve the now leading weaving industry in Japan.

Nishijin-ori illustration
Nishijin-ori heddle
Nishijin weaving
Nishijin-ori kimono
Nishijin-ori kimono

* Photo courtesy of Kano-ko Co., Ltd.

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