Stitching depicted in symmetrical diamond patterns, devised by farmers.
A fine decorative stitching of various yarns on indigo fabric, Tsugaru koginzashi embroidery was devised by farmers living in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture. Its history goes back almost 300 years. Forced by law to live in poverty, farmers were not allowed to wear cotton, so they lived in clothes of coarse linen. But coarse linen provides little warmth, and it also frays when shouldering heavy baskets during farm work. Koginzashi embroidery was devised to increase thermal insulation and strengthen the cloth by weaving yarn throughout.
Practical beauty re-evaluated as a traditional craft.
As Japan entered the Meiji period, the wearing of cotton was permitted and embroidering dyed indigo cloth with white cotton thread became mainstream. Farming women began competing to draw the most beautiful patterns. It is said that there were over 300 kinds of patterns. This was re-evaluated in the 20th century, and the traditional craft of koginzashi commenced. Broadly speaking, there are three types of koginzashi: the fine patterns of nishi-kogin; the striking bold arrangements of higashi-kogin; and the valuable older style of mishima-kogin, of which few pieces remain today. Koginzashi is beauty brought to life by the living wisdom of the women of Japan’s snow country.
For hands-on experience of koginzashi, head to the Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute
Located in Hirosaki, the Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute is an organization dedicated to the revival and study of koginzashi. It has already been active for over 50 years. Its store sells koginzashi products. It stocks many items ideal for everyday use, such as book covers, pouches, and business card holders. Hands-on koginzashi workshops for groups are also available with a booking. At first glance, the stitching may seem difficult, but even beginners can complete the smaller diamond-shaped patterns. Experiencing the traditional craft of the land with your hands in this way should provide some great memories.
Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute
- 61 Zaifu-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori-ken
- Opening hours
- 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
- Saturdays, Sundays, & public holidays
- Aomori Airport is a 50-minute flight from New Chitose Airport.
- Aomori Airport is a 105-minute flight from Osaka International (Itami) Airport.
- Hirosaki Station is 55 minutes by shuttle bus from Aomori Airport.
- Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute is a 30-minute walk from Hirosaki Station.