Tango Chirimen Textile Road

Tango Chirimen

The old Tango Province in northern Kyoto Prefecture has long been known for its textile production, and visitors to the area are welcomed by the rattling sound of weaving looms.
Tango Chirimen, a form of flat-woven silk crepe, was first produced in the Edo period (1603-1868), and became the fabric of choice for Yuzen-dyed kimonos due to its softness and being easy to dye.
Even today, the region produces 60% of kimono textiles and is the largest source of production for Japan’s kimono culture.
There are traditional weavers’ residences housing textile studios as well as merchant shops and factories with their distinctive triangular roofs.
By visiting the locally famed Amanohashidate sandbar, made famous from the traditional folk songs of the area, visitors can experience the history and culture of the textile industry that has continued to develop and thrive over the past three centuries.

The birth of Tango Chirimen, silk textile weaving

When visiting Tango district in the north side of Kyoto, the rattling sound of weaving looms welcomes visitors.
Inner land of Tango district, agriculture and textile supported life of people. When silk fabrics was founded in Nishijin in Kyoto, silk fabrics called “Tango Seiko” did not sell, farmers suffered a very bad crop, people were faced with danger. “Chirimen” is silk fabric which has unevenness called “Shibo” and beautiful gloss. It was a treasure never allowed to be taken out of the house. Kinuya Saheiji in Mineyama district trained himself while fasting in Zenjoji temple, studied in Nishijin in Kyoto, has mastered the technique of making unique silk fabrics.
At the same time Momenya Rokuemon in Kaetsu district sent Tegomeya Kouemon in Kaetsu and Yamamotoya Sahyoue in Mikawauchi to Nishijin for introducing new technique to Tango district. The four men who learned the technique of making silk fabrics taught it to local people.
Chirimen became widely known in the twinkling of an eye into Tango district. People survived through a difficulty by their own effort.

Townscape and culture fostered by Tango Chirimen

“Tango Chirimen” got established as standard raw fabric of kimono which can be dyed by Yuzen-Zome because it has unevenness, smooth and softness and good color development. People had developed “Mon-Chirimen” in which colorful pattern was given, scouring or to remove protein covered over silk fabric by boiling, established check system and took great pains to improve quality. Tang district had developed as a great producing center of silk fabric in 1955 to 1965. Sericulture and silk reeling had been promoted and contributed greatly to the development of north side of Kyoto prefecture.
Mineyama, Omiya, Amino, Yae in Kyotango city are main production area of Tango Chirimen. There are textile factories which has triangular roof like saw-tooth. Typical weavers are dotted here which include living space and weaver room.
Mineyama domain in Edo era was a small domain, but Tango Chirimen contributed to build local economy. Kotohirajinja built by a feudal lord had vast precincts and many sanctuaries, a votive wooden tablet in which magnificent festival was written. A festival with many stalls is also hold today. Kishimajinja which enshrines the god of sericulture was founded by raw-silk merchants and sericulturists. A rare stone cat was dedicated because cats exterminate rats which was a powerful enemy to sericulture. It preserves activities of local people who thanks to the blessings of silk fabric and maintained the culture.

Miyazu city, which prospered as a castle town of Miyazu domain, was a production area of Tango Chirimen until the end of Edo Bakufu. It became a base of distribution of Chirimen to Kyoto. Many merchants and sailors visited this town and the gay quarters were established. A landscape such as Amanohashidate or Chionji temple was succeeded as a folk song “Miyazu Bushi”. Wholesale houses of thread which has a beautiful white wall and luxurious Japanese style room, a Japanese garden or Machiya which has a latticework remains today.


Succeeding the technique of Tango Chirimen and Culture

60 percent of the fabrics of Kimono was produced and 30 percent of raw silk was consumed in Tango area. It is the largest production area of silk fabrics in Japan. Superior weaving technique of Tango Chirimen was handed down to the present day. It is applied not only to Kimono, but also Western clothes, Scarfs or interior goods.

Hyper-Silk processing which will not be shrunk when got wet, or development of Polyester Chirimen was started. The history and culture of weaving silk fabrics which was handed down for 300 years are spun to the future by steady effort of local people.

By Masa Tamura

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