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A TRADITIONAL INDUSTRIAL ARTIFACT
Thin fibers spun together form thread. It is then separated into woof (horizontal) and warp (vertical) strands, which when woven together on a loom become fabric. The weaving technique employed to produce Kiryu Ori (Kiryu textiles) has been designated a Traditional Industrial Art.
While textiles are commonly used to make kimonos or western style clothing, they can also be used in a variety of ways for interior decorating.
There are various methods for weaving, however, the basic techniques are plain weave, twill weave, satin weave, and gauze weave.
Plain weave is characteristic of such fabrics as pongee (silk having a knotty textile), crepe, shirt fabrics, handkerchief material, etc. Having the same texture on both sides, this fabric is very strong.
Twill weave fabrics are characteristically used for brocade obi (kimono sashes), gold brocade, cotton denim, wool fabrics, and other close-weave fabrics which are strong but soft.
Satin weave fabrics are characterized by satin and other high luster, glossy textiles.
Gauze weave fabrics are characterized by various types of sheer, light silk gauzes and other various Jacquard weaves and layer-woven textiles.
Kiryu's fiber industry is a traditional local industry. As a textile producing district, western style production line manufacturing techniques were first established at the close of the Edo Period (mid 19th century). At present, textile production for both domestic and foreign markets continues to prosper.
In addition to textile weaving, other traditional industrial arts in Kiryu include Kiryu washi (traditionally made fiber paper) which was designated a Tradtional Industrial Art by Gunma Prefecture.
Present day machine industry manufacturing in Kiryu consists primarily of the production of automobile parts, electronic equipment, pachinko machines and other allied industries.
From the Edo Period, merchants from Sakai, Kyo, Omi, Nagoya, Edo and other cities came to Kiryu contributing to the development of the city as a textile center. Artisans from Kanto, Tohoku, Koshinetsu, Noto and other districts were attracted to Kiryu by its developing industry, further contributing to the formation of Kiryu's local culture. At present, the textile industry emphasis is maintained as Kiryu continues to grow as a high-tech /fashion city.
The local character is very much like the splitting of bamboo which leaves no splinters. Kiryu natives tend to be forthcoming and frank. They are very fond of festivals and possess a cheerful disposition. The enterprising spirit of Kiryu natives, along with their resourcefulness, eagerness to improve, and innovativeness have become the driving force for modernization in the city.
It is not known exactly when textiles first began to be produced in Kiryu. However, there is evidence that in the year 714 of the Christian era silk was woven in Kozuke no Kuni (present day Gunma Prefecture) and sent to the Imperial Court. In the year 905 a silk tax was levied on the area (in most areas the tax took the form of a rice tax instead). It is, therefore, possible to affirm that silk was manufactured locally from antiquity. Between 1384 and 1392 there is mention in various records of locally produced silk, known as Nittayama Silk, which was transported to other parts of the country.
Before this time it is said that the soldiers of the local Lord, Yoshisada Nitta, while carrying banners made from Nittayama Silk, conquered the Kamakura Shogunate in a battle at Ikushina Forest, an event of great significance.
From the end of the Onin War (1467 - 1477) there ensued a time of change during which the silk industry underwent a decline. Around 1600, however, it resurged and when in October of that year Lord Tokugawa stood to fight Lord Ishida at Sekigahara, his soldiers carried silk banners produced in Kiryu into the battle. It is said that on one day some 2,410 silk banners were brought to the grounds of Tenmangu Shrine to be blessed before they were carried into battle.
After this time, during the Kanbun-Enpo Period (1661-1680) many people began to work in factories and came to Kiryu from Kyoto, Osaka, Edo and other distant areas. As a result of the steady growth in the silk industry, the Silk Market was opened in Kiryu in February, 1738. In that same year, mechanized looms began to be employed and new types of textiles were produced. As for the silk market, it is difficult to express in words the great prosperity it met with. Even today people remember the booming days of Kiryu's silk market.
With continued success year after year, Kiryu began to produce silk of increasingly high quality and the city grew in fame. Given this background, it is not hard to understand why the local people long for the days of the prosperous silk industry and are eager to preserve for posterity the events of those times. The commemorative illustration of the Kiryu Sayaichi (Silk Market) is an attempt to show graphically the circumstances of that period.
The Kiryu Sayaichi Silk Market illustration was painted in Meiji 27 (1894) by Toko Oh-Ide, a Nanga painter from Kiryu, and the essay above which accompanies the painting is by Haruhiko Kojima, the Mayor of Kiryu at the time who was also a poet.
* Kiryu Ori is a Traditional Industrial Artifact, however, with modernization, it can also be produced using the latest technology. Nevertheless, even now, Kiryu Ori is still being made in the traditional way as shown in the circular photographs.
Pictured here is a large ear ornament unearthed at the Kiryu Chiami Gaito archeological site. Dating from the end of the Jomon Period, this pottery ornament is distinguished by its beautiful triple knot design. It has become a symbol of Kiryu culture and has been designated a Cultural Treasure.
The ornament is represented in fabric as a brocade woven according to the traditional techniques of Kiryu textiles.
A TRADITIONAL INDUSTRIAL ART
There are seven methods of producing Kiryu Ori, resulting in a wide variety of textiles. In October, 1977, Kiryu Ori was designated a Traditional Industrial Art by the Minister of International trade and Industry.
At present, under the direction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Gunma Prefecture and the city of Kiryu, the Kiryu Textile Manufacturers Association, as a focal group, has taken a first step toward seeing to the continued growth of the industry. Textiles woven in Kiryu according to traditional techniques bear the traditional industrial art symbol. Additionally, technicians of superior talent are awarded the title of "Traditional Industrial Artisan." As part of the process of refining their own skills, these artisans pass on their craft to succeeding generations.
The traditional industrial artisans of Kiryu have formed the Kiryu Traditional Artisans Guild, the purpose of which is to preserve and pass on traditional textile weaving techniques as well as provide a forum for the exchange of ideas among the Guild members.
As traditional industrial arts go through the process of modernization, there is a danger that the traditional techniques will be lost or forgotten. For this reason, Japan has established criteria for the selection and protection of those industrial arts established long ago for the manufacture of items used in daily life.
Techniques which satisfy these standards are designated "Traditional Industrial Artifacts." As of September 1989, 171 items from around the country have been so designated. Only those items manufactured according to traditional industrial arts under designation by the country are permitted to bear the Traditional Industrial Artifacts symbol.
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