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Yuzen Nagashi
Washing hand drawn patterns on kimono silk in the Kiryu River...

Yuzen Nagashi photo
One of the characteristic features of Kiryu in the past was the custom called "Yuzen Nagashi" or washing kimono silks in the river to remove the paste resist and excess dye used in the process of hand drawing the beautiful designs on silk.

At the peak of Kiryu's textile manufacturing (around the 1950's), there were some 400 plus textile companies in Kiryu engaged in this practice. Gorgeous kimono fabrics floated year round in the crystal clear water of the Kiryu River.

With the changing post-war lifestyle in Japan, however, wearing kimonos has steadily declined. And so, by the end of the Showa Period (1989), yuzen nagashiceased on the Kiryu River.
Yuzen Dyeing Technique
Yuzen dyeing is a technique developed during the Edo Period in Kyoto. Its practice spread to other major textile centers such as Kiryu and continues to be practiced in various textile cities. The following is a brief description of this technique.

- The artist creates a design on paper.
- An outline of the pattern is then transferred to the silk material using a fluid made from natural sap.
- Next, the artist adds colors to the basic pattern which has been transferred to the material.
- Once the design has been completed, the colored in areas are next covered with a rice-paste resist.
- When the resist has thoroughly dried, the background color is then painted on with a large brush.
- The final stage takes place on the river where washers fix the bolts of printed silk to lines across the river and then rhythmically beat the fabric on the flowing water to remove the rice paste resist and any excess color. The river water also helps to set the dye in the silk and brings out the vibrant colors.

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