OITAMA Tsumugi (Pongee)
Although it dates back to the 8th century, the weaving of this pongee fabric did not become firmly established in Oitama, Yamagata Prefecture until the beginning of the 17th century. At that time, the feudal lord Uesugi Keisho encouraged its weaving.
Today, a number of different fabrics are being produced. There is the traditionally woven shirataka itajime kogasuri, an unassuming ikat fabric, and another small ikat motif called yoneryu itajime kogasuri. Lastly, there is a weft ikat and another with ikat threads in both the warp and weft. Safflower is just one of the natural dyes used for these pongee fabrics. Inevitably, the handmade look of these fabrics is attracting much attention among consumers.
Oitama Tsumugi is actually a generic name for six individual cloths, namely yoneryu itajime kogasuri, shirataka itajime kogasuri, yokoso gasuri, heiyo gasuri, kusakizome tsumugi and benibana tsumugi. All are yarn dyed and plain woven.
All textiles produced in the Oitama region of Yamagata prefecture are known as Oitama Tsumugi textiles. There are six styles of textiles: Yoneryuitajime-kogasuri, Shiratakaitajime-kogasuri, Yokoso-gasuri, Heiyo-gasuri, and Kusakizome-tsumugi, and Benibana (Canola)-tsumugi. All of the textiles use pre-dyed threads woven in a plain weave.
How to make
Yonezawa city, Nagai city and Shirataka town in Yamagata prefecture are each traditional centers of Oitama Tsumugi textiles, each with unique weaving techniques, as follows:
Yonezawa city produces kusakizome tsumugi and benibana tsumugi, Nagai city produces yokoso gasuri and heiyo gasuri, and Shirataka town produces yoneryu itajime kogasuri and shirataka itajime kogasuri.