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Crafted textile store's blog

2019.10.02
Echigo jofu & Ojiya chijimi : Japanese finest ramie textile

Echigo jofu (越後上布) [in the general meaning, includes Ojiya-chijimi (小千谷縮)] is a extremely refined handcraft hemp fabric woven with ultra-fine ramie thread, from the snowy Uonuma and Ojiya city, Nigata prefecture.

Ojiya-chijimi is the Echigo jofu with an additional wrinkling step that employs hard-twisted weft threads so as to create wrinkly texture after washing hardly with hand and feet in tepid water.

Echigo-jofu is now produced about 30 tan annually, and Ojiya-chijimi is merely 3 tan. Due to small production rate, they are almost phantom hemp textile hardly seen in marketplace, and became same value with luxury car.

The textile tradition was designated as Japan’s first Important Intangible Cultural Assets in 1955, and also designated on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

 

Uonuma(魚沼) & Ojiya(小千谷) city, Nigata prefecture. Echigo (越後) region. One of snowist area in Japan, completely shut off by heavy snow from November until April.

 

Ramie fabric only possible in the Snow country

Making of Echigo-jofu’s yarn takes half a months by splitting ramie stems by fingernail into strands thinner than hair, to joint them together to form a yarn. After that, the weaving by back-striped loom takes about 3 months. Finally, the clothes are laid on the snow for natural bleaching effect for more than a week.

A sequence of the processes follow the local snowy season.

The looming is done during snow-covered period from November to March, and sunlight bleaching on the snow is done during March to April.

The reason why the looming is done during the snowy period is because ultra-fine ramie threads require humidity, otherwise warp threads on the loom breaks easily.

The history of hemp textile making in Echigo region is very long. There is a record in 749-757 indicating that thousand of textiles were sent over imperial court.

The ramie textile production in Echigo region, has been handed down generation to generation until today over 1000 years. It has been developed and maintained as a farmer’s indoor sideline business during their agricultural off season.

It was also the only source of putting their spiritual and creative energy, when snow completely shut off their houses from even next-doors.

The difficulty in weaving will increase, if finer the thread, and more complex the kasuri pattern.

 

Echigo-jofu and Ojiya-chijimi being stocked in Hirotatsumugi, Kyoto

Below are some of Echigo-jofu and Ojiya-chijimi currently we have on the store. Each of them may be even valuable enough to be collected in museum.

Solid colored Echigo-jofu. Blue and black, two different dyed yarns are used.

 

Snow crystal kasuri patterned, Echigo-jofu.

 

Very intricate kasuri. Various abstract patterns are on it.

 

Ojiya chijimi. Never get tired of touching the exquisite and intricate wavy texture.

 

Ojiya chijimi with dragonflies kasuri.

 

Ojiya chijimi with snow rings