Kyoto Black Dyeing

Although the dyeing of cloth black has a very long history dating back to the 10th century, it seems that it was not until the 17th century that it became established as a recognized craft to include family crests.
In the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868), binrouji-zome, using Indigo and other dyes to pre-dye the cloth, dominated the craft which became a great favorite with the warrior classes. Then at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912), its application spread widely due to the fact that haori, the short black over kimono emblazoned with family crests on the back, came into more general use on formal occasions. Gradually, with the introduction of dyeing techniques learned from the British and research done on dyestuffs from France and Germany, the rather laborious binrouji-zome technique was dropped and the present-day vat dyeing techniques as well as two others, sandokuro and kuro-senryo, became firmly established.

Silk is used and in order to perfect the depth and subtle tone of the black, the cloth is pre-dyed with crimson or indigo, using chemical dyestuffs. Application of the family crest is either done by hand-painting or with a stencil. Material for ties and arm bands is being produced along side cloths for kimono and the traditional haori worn on formal occasions.


The fabric used for these items is silk. Even when using chemical dyes, preliminary dyeing with crimson or indigo is necessary in order to bring out the black in all its depth and subtlety. As for the coat of arms, this can either be hand-drawn or printed using a paper stencil.

How to make

White fabric is stretched over a wooden frame and then tentered by steaming it. Next, with the fabric still left untouched so as not to stain the part where the coat of arms will be, resist printing paste is applied and resist printing is carried out; only then the fabric is "hikizome" (brush dyed) or "shinsen" (dip-dyed). In "shinsen" (dip-dyed), the fabric is immersed in black dye after having been preliminarily dyed with crimson or indigo dyes. "Hikizome" (brush dyed) is a dyeing technique whereby black dye is applied by brush after the fabric has been preliminarily dyed with crimson or indigo dyes. The "sandoguro” (three times black) dyeing process consists in applying vegetable dyes and mordant dyes more than twice each. The coat of arms will be drawn at the very end of the process.