Last week, fellow Nagano Inbound Ambassador Tom-san wrote about Silk Weaving in Ueda. Here are a few more details about this unique opportunity to experience one of Nagano’s traditional crafts.
In the Ueda Tsumugi Tradition
At Koiwai Tsumugi Studio, Ueda City
Come sit at a loom at an actual working silk weaving studio and weave your own hand-made creation. Ueda Tsumugi is a silk weaving tradition with a 300 year history, and is considered one of the top 3 such traditions in all of Japan. The family-run Koiwai studio maintains this hand weaving tradition to this day, incorporating the fabric into modern items such as neckties, purses and scarves. The Koiwais would be happy to guide you on a tour of the studio so you can see the entire silk weaving process, from dyeing to spooling, then to the weaving on the handlooms.
And, if you have the time and creativity, you too can choose the thread colors, sit at an actual loom, decide your own pattern, and pass the shuttle back and forth across the weft to make your own personal Ueda Tsumugi weaving.
Sericulture was a major industry in rural Japan starting in the middle of the Edo period and peaking in the Meiji era when silk accounted for 60% of Japan’s exports. Silk production worldwide declined with the Great Depression in the 1930’s. After a brief comeback post-WWII, Japan’s sericulture gradually disappeared. In the Shiojiri neighborhood where the Koiwai Tsumugi Studio is located, you can still see many earthen-walled storehouses with their unique raised center ridges – indicating that silk worms had been grown there in the past. And the Faculty of Textile Science and Technology at Shinshu University’s Ueda campus, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2010 and one of only 2 such centers in Japan, continues to expand on Ueda’s silk history with futuristic research on fiber science and textile technology.
The Ueda Tsumugi silk weaving tradition has its roots in this local sericulture background. Its unique characteristics are in the coloring (browns derived from apple tree bark and indigo blues) and design (checkered patterns are common). The fabric is also known for its strength, which derives from the combination of single strands of silk in the weft with the thicker gathered strands (“tsumugi”) in the warp. Many examples of fabric are on display and available for purchase at the small gift shop at the Koiwai Tsumugi Studio. You can ask to see their book of patterns that dates back to the Edo period. Those same patterns are still being made today. While some are used to make kimonos and in other traditional ways, the Koiwais also use Ueda Tsumugi in making vests, hats and other more western styles, too.
Ueda Silk Weaving Workshop
Koiwai Tsumugi Studio offers silk weaving workshops, where even beginners can experience making Ueda Tsumugi on an actual wooden handloom.
*40 Minute Course Learn basic weaving techniques and make a small place mat, approx. 20x30cm. 2,500 yen.
*60 Minute Course Using basic weaving techniques, make a larger 30x50cm wall hanging. 4,500 yen.
*Independent Course Make a weaving to the size that you desire, such as an obi for kimono. Prices and times are negotiable.
NOTES: Workshops are available on most days from between 9am and 5pm. Please contact the Studio for a reservation at least 1 day in advance. Children from 10 years and older are welcome. Minimum 1 person. For groups, there are 3 looms available, so participants can either take turns making individual weavings or team up to make one or more weavings.
Gathering at the entrance to Koiwai Tsumugi Studio
Location / Contact Info
Koiwai Tsumugi Studio
40 Kamishiojiri, Ueda City, Nagano Pref. 386-0042
Access: 15 minutes by car from Ueda Sugadaira IC on the Shin’etsu Expressway via Ueda Bypass and Route 18; by train, 7 minutes walk from Nishi Ueda Station on the Shinano Railway.
Nearby Points of Interest: Shiojiri Neighborhood (Narrow streets lined with classic earthen-walled storehouses, in the area surrounding the Koiwai studio); Kutsukake Sake Brewery (historical brewery, tours available by reservation, “Fukumuryo” label, 5 minutes walk from the studio).
Nearby Lodging: Akiwa Kosen Ryokan (5 min. by car; Tel 0268-22-1446), Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (11 min. by train)