Written by Mitsuko Takahashi
Visit A Traditional Japanese Ikat Weaving Workshop in Kurume, Fukuoka
Sakata Weaving Factory is a traditional Japanese Ikat weaving workshop in Kurume, Fukuoka prefecture. We invite you to visit this factory and see how the fascinating indigo blue fabrics are dyed and woven into beautiful patterns.
When you visit Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture, you could extend your trip by taking a 40 minute drive to Kurume, a quiet, small town where the locals dedicate themselves to agriculture and manufacturing. Kurume used to be an area under the direct control of the shōgunate in the Edo era.
Kurume is renowned nowadays as the home town of a type of traditional Japanese Ikat weaving method called Kurume-kasuri.
With a history spanning over more than 200 years, Kurume-kasuri was registered as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 1957. At the moment, there are around twenty weaving factories in Kurume still passing down the craftsmanship of hand loomed Kurume-kasuri fabrics.
In this article I will introduce Sakata Weaving Factory, a Kurume-kasuri workshops I had the chance to visit recently, inviting you to visit it yourself and find out more about Japanese Ikat weaving.
Kurume-kasuri Fabrics - How They Are Produced
Sakata Weaving Factory is one of the few remaining weaving workshops that use traditional dyeing and weaving methods.
“The distinctive feature of Kurume-kasuri is the way how vertical and horizontal threads are woven to create intricate patters. There are more than 30 painstaking processes involved, which take about 2 months to complete”, explained Mr. Sakata, himself a Kurume-kasuri weaver and the 3rd generation owner of the factory.
The production process starts with pattern design, after which the threads are rolled using a special loom and prepared for coloring.
Japanese Indigo dye
Natural indigo is used for dying the textile threads. The herbal fragrance of the fermented indigo stays with the fabric for long and it has a soothing, relaxing effect.
Fermented indigo enhances the durability of the material and, with its aroma, has insect proofing effects. The resulting fabric is durable yet comfortable to wear.
The Process of Creating Kurume-kasuri
At Sakata Weaving Factory visitors can see the entire process of producing Kurume-kasuri, from drying the freshly dyed threads to weaving.
Drying the textile threads in the sun
This is how the Kurume-kasuri thread looks like.
Spinning the threads
As hand loomed Kurume-kasuri is very expensive, Sakata Weaving Factory produces the fabrics mainly with machines. It is fun to compare the noisy machine weaving with the slow and quiet hand loom. The professional weavers at this factory will show you both.
Visitors can try to weave themselves. All you need to do is ask, but please don’t expect to be able to make a fabric within a few minutes.
Kimono Fabric Reinvented
Kimonos made of Kurume-kasuri were used as farm clothes in olden days. One product made of this fabric stays in good condition for more than a couple of decades, and it becomes more and more comfortable as it gets older.
As Kurume-kasuri fabrics take many processes to complete, it's price tends to be high. However, taking into account that it is made of organic materials and durable, it is worth its price. Mothers used to hand kimonos made of Kurume-kasuri down to their daughters for many generations. Since the fabric is expensive, fathers made a special duvet with Kurume-kasuri for their daughters to bring as dowry when they would marry. Good female weavers were said to be popular for brides, even more than good-looking ones.
Because of its high quality, it is getting popular nowadays in the new trend to reinvent the use of traditional fabrics. That is we can find object for daily use such as bed covers and pillow cases, night gowns, umbrellas, hats and other items made of Kurume-kasuri.
By visiting a weaving factory in Kurume, you will understand why Kurume-kasuri fabrics, with their indigo color, also known as "Japan Blue", was registered as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. It is also fascinating to see how people do their best to preserve their culture and craft.
At Sakata Weaving Factory there is no fixed guided tour, but they will be happy to show visitors the production processes in the weaving factory. Please call them beforehand to arrange the date of your visit. An English speaking person will be there to assist your communication. It will be a jolly adventure for you!
Sakata Weaving Factory
Address: Fukuoka, Yame, Naganobu Hirokawa 602
Open: Monday to Saturday 9:00-16:00
Credit Cards: -
Other Languages: Support in English
Menus/Pamphlets in Other Languages: -
Nearest Station: Kurume Station (久留米駅) on the JR Kyushu or Nishitetsu line.
Access: From Kurume station take bus number 30 or 31 to Kawase. By car, use the Kyushu Expressway from Fukuoka city, get out of the highway at Hirokawa intersection; 7 minutes from there.
Price Range/Entrance Fee: -
Religious Considerations: -
(Any extra notes on parking, important details included in Japanese here)
Phone Number: 0943-32-1402