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The History of Okunizome

Ukiyoe Kaga domain ceremonial rites
From the Kanazawa University library collection
Ukiyoe Kaga domain ceremonial rites
From the Kanazawa University library collection
Temple elementary school
Ukiyoe Kaga domain ceremonial rites
"Temple elementary school"
From the Kanazawa University library collection
The history of okunizome starts with umezome or plum (Japanese apricot) dyeing in the Muromachi period (1333~1573) and continues to this day. Umezome is an unpatterned dyeing technique yet displaying warmth and took root in the area of Kaga. During the Edo period, this technique became the basis for what is now known as Kaga Yuzen.

To protect the Kaga clan from the shogunate as well as to show its obedience to the central government, the government office of Kaga established the samurai culture steeped in the arts, crafts and learning. In particular, the third generation daimyo Toshitsune and fifth generation daimyo Tsunanori both actively sort out artisans throughout Japan skilled in the arts and crafts and invited them to the Kaga region to help develop and promote the quality of the arts, something which was unseen in other parts of Japan.

The artisans were provided with a studio called the ‘osaikusho’ within the compounds of Kanazawa Castle and this is where they perfected their techniques in their respective fields and produced items of the highest quality whether they were made for the daimyo, temples, high ranking samurai or even as gifts to the shogunate. It was assumed that Kaga Yuzen dye artisans were also among the group but the majority of high class officials preferred to order their garments from Kyoto and so it is most probable that dyeing artisans for the purpose of producing Kaga okunizome were not present among the group.

It was for that reason that these artisans turned their hand to making kimono for everyday use as well as noren, bedclothes and furoshiki for the samurai class and locals. The majority of items during this era were produced using silk but the skill of the dyeing artisan was extremely developed that they could turn their hand to using any material such as cotton and still produce exquisite items.

Child's kimono
Furoshiki (Wrapping cloth)
Child's kimono
Child's kimono Furoshiki (Wrapping cloth) Child's kimono

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