[Kokura-Ori: Traditional Craft of Kokura, Kitakyushu City]

Kokura-ori is a traditional craft of Kokura, Kitakyushu City, and when you live in Kitakyushu, the mere mention of Kokura-ori conjures images of those striped patterns. These stripes, with their distinct impressions varying according to design, blend the traditional and modern through their color choices. What sets them apart is the fabric's firmness and lustrous finish. I recently stopped by "Kokura Shima Shima," and I was mesmerized by the exquisite color combinations of striped fabrics elegantly displayed in the refined shop interior.

Kokura-ori is a type of cotton fabric produced in Kokura during the Edo period through the early Showa period, encompassing three main varieties: Kokura-shima (stripes), Kokura-chidimi (shrinking), and Kokura-bakama (trousers). It gained popularity for its use in samurai trousers and sashes during the Edo period when it was actively woven. In the late Edo period, Kokura was one of Japan's leading cotton fabric production areas. The fabric was thick, durable, and smooth. It was primarily cultivated, spun, and woven by women from the Ogasawara clan, becoming a renowned local product. However, due to the turmoil of the late Edo period, the number of producers dwindled, and eventually, Kokura-ori fell into decline. Around the 26th year of the Meiji era, amidst the cultural blossoming of the time, Kokura-ori experienced a revival as a fabric for school uniforms. Nevertheless, due to its labor-intensive production and high costs, it began to wane again around the 34th year of Meiji, exacerbated by the aftermath of the financial crisis. By the early Showa period, it had faded into obscurity.

Kokura-ori, as its name suggests, is renowned for its vibrant striped patterns. The vertical threads are woven at triple the density of regular fabrics, rendering the horizontal threads nearly invisible. This intricate process creates a three-dimensional world of rich color variations. The fabric possesses a unique, leathery texture, making it stand out among textiles. Kokura-ori, which lasted for over 300 years and was recorded as being favored by Tokugawa Ieyasu for his falconry attire, fell into obscurity but was eventually restored in 1984 by the dyeing and weaving artist Noriko Tsuiki. It serves as the foundation for modern Kokura-ori.

Kokura Shima Shima's products are available in department stores, airports, and train stations throughout Kitakyushu City, allowing locals to easily encounter Kokura-ori. It's not uncommon to spot shops incorporating Kokura-ori into aprons and uniforms or individuals using Kokura-ori eco-bags, wearing masks, or carrying business card holders. Discovering these beautiful striped patterns in daily life reflects the deep-rooted love for Kitakyushu City and its rich cultural heritage among its residents.

Wakamatsu Showroom
Kokura Shima Shima