People around the globe are now familiar with Japanese culture. You can find Japanese food anywhere you go. The world is smitten with Japanese interior decorations, including tatami and fusuma, Japanese fashion in the form of kimono, and such traditional arts as the tea ceremony and flower arranging. Meanwhile, in Japan, young people are leading the way in a rediscovery of such traditional handicrafts as ceramics and textiles. The most well known local handicraft is Hakata-ori textiles. While people still consider it a craft art, the textiles are also found in familiar objects used in everyday life.
Australian Sabine Baer’s kimono, obi and bag are all made of Hakata-ori. 100% Hakata-ori = 100% Hakata Style.
Model: Sabine Baer
Hair/Make: I’Atelier Dimanche
Kimono & accessories: Irohana
Photo: Tsuyoshi Suzuki
Traditional beauty: the pride of Hakata
Hakata textiles were brought back from Sung period China by Hakata merchant Mitsuda Yazaemon and Shoichikokushi in 1235. They taught the people of Hakata the techniques for making the textiles, and their descendants continued researching and improving these techniques until they created the characteristic cloth of today with raised designs on a thick base fabric. Several areas in Japan are known for producing textiles, including the homes of the Nishijin and Kiryu textiles. While each has their own distinctive characteristics, the prominent feature of Hakata-ori is their practicality. A lot of slender warp thread is used, and this is strongly woven into the weft with a tautness to hold the pattern. Once the fabric is tightened, it is difficult to unravel. Another trait of Hakata-ori is that kimono belts made with this fabric produce a distinctive sound when being tightened. Even more than its practicality, one cannot avoid mentioning the beauty of its patterns. In general, there are two types of patterns–the Plain pattern and the figured pattern. The former was presented to the Tokugawa shogunate by the first head of the Kuroda domain, Nagamasa. The latter was developed over the years as a colorful variation with patterns that differ with each design.
A total of 46 workshops are registered today with the Hakata-ori Textile Industrial Association. When the kenjo variety was produced, only a few craftsmen produced Hakata textiles because it was a luxury item to be worn by those of samurai class or above. While the quality and scarcity value rose, only 12 craftsmen produced the fabric, so it did not develop into a major industry in the way that production of the Nishijin and Kiryu textiles did. Today, 450 people are involved in producing Hakata textiles, including craftsmen and employees, and they work to ensure the tradition is transmitted and preserved. Most of the workshops are located in the urban districts surrounding Fukuoka City, including Chikushino, Kasuga, and Nakagawa-machi. Generally, Hakata textiles have the image of a luxurious craft art used primarily for making kimono belts. As with Hakata dolls, they are often used for presents for people overseas. People seldom come into contact with it in their daily lives. Recently, however, the material is increasingly being used in more commonplace items, such as wallets, card holders, handbags, and neckties. Let’s take a look at Hakata textiles today.
Everything depends on the combination of the warp and weft. The textile art is created by integrating the design, color, and the weaver’s skills.
- Design: A pattern is colored on cross-sectioned paper to create the design.
- Dyeing: A specialist dyes the fabric after the color is determined at the design stage.
- Setting the loom: The thread is placed in the loom. This work requires a lot of care, because silk thread breaks easily.
- Weaving: Traditional techniques are evident in the intricacy and expressiveness of the pattern.
The many uses of Hakata-ori
Hakata-ori are not just for Japanese-style clothing. They are also used in everyday items such as card holders, wallets, and neckties.
- Handbags: The material can be used for handbags of all shapes and sizes, and goes well with any style of clothing, ranging from the pedestrian to the most elegant and fashionable.
- Phone straps: Here’s a hip way to show your Hakata pride. Inexpensive and colorful phone straps made of Hakata-ori can make you both cool and classic.
- Ties: Men can enjoy wearing Hakata-ori when used as the fabric to make ties. The combination of the silky sheen and the original woven patterns is very appealing.
- Card holders: We recommend this as a first purchase. The austere elegance of the traditional kenjo Hakata-ori is striking.
- Stuffed toys: Hakata-ori are used for teddy bears too. The material is also well suited to Western-style interiors.
- Personal Seal Case: Your chop is very important, so doesn’t it deserve a pretty home? Cases made of Hakata-ori aren’t just pretty, they’re durable too!
Hakata-ori Goshiki Kenjo: This is the starting point for Hakata-ori and was presented to the Tokugawa government during the Edo period. It has five woven colors, including purple, red, and yellow, each with their own meaning. It is recognized by its pattern which employs a design based on two Buddhist altar objects.
- Virtue (Purple): The root of the murasaki plant. A noble color expressing refinement and elegant mystery.
- Honor (Blue): Kariyasu, indigo plant. The start of a season. The color of calm, quiet, and peace.
- Trust (Yellow): The skin of an arbutus. The color of the earth. Its use by anybody other than the emperor was prohibited.
- Courtesy (Red): The root of a Japanese akane. Originates in the rising sun. The color of happiness and prosperity.
- Wisdom (Navy blue): Indigo plant. Strength, solidity, and trust. A color of seriousness and wisdom.
Where to See & Buy
Check out the Real Deal at Hakata Ori Kaikan
This facility is also the location of the Hakata-ori Industrial Textile Association. They present Hakata-ori actually used in products. Visitors can see the material woven by hand.
1-14-12 Hakataeki Minami, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
9:00 ~ 17:00
Closed Sat., Sun., Wed., Hol.,
Perfect for gift shopping at Nigiwai Plaza
This facility is for the exhibition and sale of local crafts, including Hakata dolls and Hakata Magemono: wooden wares in addition to Hakata-ori.
3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, B2F Hakata Riverain Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
10:00 ~ 20:00
Hakata-ori for everyday use at Hakata Japan
Hakata Japan exhibits handbags, wallets, and other everyday items made from Hakata-ori. The designs and material combinations are so attractive you’ll want to use them yourself.
2-2-3 Jigyohama, 4F Sea Hawk Hotel, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
10:00 ~ 20:00 (21:00 before Hol.)
Give weaving a try at Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan
Though machines are increasingly being used to weave Hakata-ori, visitors to this facility can see it being woven by hand. They also can try weaving it themselves with the help of an artisan.
6-10 Reisen-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
10:00 ~ 18:00 (no admission after 17:30)
Demonstrations: 11:00 ~ 13:00 / 15:00 ~ 17:00
Fukuoka Now talks to a weaver of Hakata-ori. Unfurling Hakata textiles throughout the world…
Chairman, Hakata-ori Textile Industrial Association Young People’s Division – Hirokazu Okano
“Conveying a tradition involves receiving it as it is, but tradition has the sense of adding originality to this conveyance. I think traditional techniques are not just a manual. They are conveyed for the first time when the spirit of the skilled craftsman is received. When people use these traditional techniques, the significance of their existence is revealed. What is the authentic article? In the future, I think we will need Hakata textiles to be a traditional craft art that creates something authentic, and which will be accepted throughout the world by diversifying its uses beyond the kimono.”