Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Kaga Yuzen

Location: Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Pref. 

 Number of companies: 333 

 Number of workers: 944 



Hand-painted Dyeing Technique that Makes the Spirit of Japan Come Alive  

Kaga was the name given in the Edo period (1603-1868) to the territory centered on Kanazawa, which lies in what is currently called Ishikawa Prefecture. One of the best known dyeing crafts in Japan, the traditional techniques of Kaga Yuzen, which have been handed down since that time, produce elegant colors with an exceptional sheen. From the 16th century to the early 17th century, the techniques of what became known as Kaga dyeing were perfected. These consisted of using persimmon or plum extracts to dye unpatterned cloth. In the second half of the 17th century, Kaga Yuzen is said to have been started by the painter Yuzen-sai Miyazaki who incorporated the Kaga dyeing process in producing Kaga Yuzen.  

The distinctive coloring of Kaga Yuzen comes from the use of the so-called five hues, including indigo blue, dark red, yellow ochre, grassy green, and ancient purple, which are used, along with gray, to create the basic pattern. One technique also involves a gradation of color from the edge to the middle of the pattern. Many design motifs, which include themes such as birds and flowers or mountains and streams, create a feeling of sumptuous elegance. Carried out by hand by a single artisan, the entire coloring process, including the creation and execution of the design, takes a very long time (about two or three months) to complete. During the work it is necessary to remove rice paste, which is used as a dye-resist material, and excess dye and this is the most famous part of the process. Consequently, dyers rinsing out their cloth in the Sai River and the Asano River which flow through the city, used to be a common sight in Kanazawa; the spectacle is known as Yuzen Nagash and people used to enjoy seeing beautiful dyed cloth streaming in the rivers. 

Photos: (Top) Beautiful kimonos of Kaga Yuzen (Kaga-zome Kyodo Kumiai); (middle from left) painting an exquisite pattern on a fabric; rinsing Kaga Yuzen fabrics in a clear water (Ishikawa Prefecture).  

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