The splendor of nature with a pattern on kimonos: Kanazawa’s ancestral dyeing technique “kaga yûzen”

The dyeing techniques are on luxurious kimono fabrics kaga yuzen depiction of the city of Kanazawa with large realistic motifs inspired by nature. Our report takes you behind the scenes of this ancestral craft that continues brilliantly in the modern age.

We are located in the city of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, on the north-central coast of the Sea of ​​Japan. This is where the kimono culture developed as well as the practice of the tea ceremony. Even today, this craft has not aged at all and continues to be passed down from generation to generation.


the kaga yuzenone of the most famous traditional crafts of Kanazawa.

Reasons kaga yuzen on kimono fabrics, generally reproducing the splendor of nature, they have the peculiarity of always being very realistic. How do craftsmen achieve this? Specific techniques are used: shaded or bokashi (this is for the painter to apply colors from darkest to lightest as he approaches the center of the flower), and mushikuior the display of tiny insect holes on the leaves and flowers of the specimen.

A very realistic depiction of nature thanks to techniques such as ombré (bokashi) and mushikui
A very realistic representation of nature thanks to techniques such as shaded (bokashi) and mushikui

The highlight of the production process is the application of colors to the drawing. This is where the skill of the master comes to the fore. The paint is applied with a series of different fine brushes or brushes with a wider tip. It requires a steady hand and a sophisticated sense of color, and it is this painstaking process that will largely determine the sophistication of the finished product.

A diverse palette of colors is used for a realistic look of the design.
A diverse palette of colors is used for a realistic look of the design.

After the cuts, the next step is the fabric. They will fear, through the process of the so-called jizome. Finally, the excess color will be removed by a rinsing process yuzen nagashi. In the past, cloths were soaked in Kanazawa City’s rivers during the winter, when the water was clearest and coldest. Today, however, urban rivers have been replaced by artificial streams where the quality can be controlled.

Nagashi yūzen, a rinsing process used to remove excess paint
the yuzen nagashia rinsing process used to remove excess dye

Maida Hitoshi, a third generation craftsman, strives to carry on the tradition while looking for new ideas to apply the techniques kaga yuzen on objects of modern life.

Maida Hitoshi busy with the fabric dyeing process
Maida Hitoshi busy with the fabric dyeing process.

In 2017, he had the idea of ​​creating patterned aprons kaga yuzen. They are especially worn by female staff in the top class of the Shinkansen Hokuriku line, extended to Kanazawa from that year. Pink or blue aprons are available in five different versions including autumn dogwood and camellias. Each apron is available in five traditional shades kaga yuzen : indigo, crimson, ochre, green and violet. Some even wear a colored band that mimics the belt both kimono, while others, more contemporary, present details such as frills, mixing tradition and modernity.

Aprons created by Maida Hitoshi using kaga yûzen techniques
Aprons made by Maida Hitoshi using techniques from kaga yuzen.

“I think it’s important to create pieces Yuzen that can be appreciated today. This is the key to passing on our profession to the younger generations. Customers are looking for something they can use or wear now, and with my creations I want to meet today’s needs,” explains Maida Hitoshi.

Today, craftsmanship of kaga yuzen continues to develop, combining contemporary trends and delicate knowledge and experience passed down from generation to generation. In short, we can say yes kaga yuzen is a distillation of the aesthetic sensibility of the city of Kanazawa, expressed through the skills of its traditional craftsmen.

(In collaboration with Kanazawa Cable Television. Banner photo: Applying vibrant colors to a pattern kaga yuzen. Photos: © Kanazawa Cable Television)

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