Yuzen, short for Yuzen-zome or Yuzen dyeing, is a dyeing technique characterized by beautiful designs featuring subjects such as kacho (flowers and birds) and human figures.
The two central schools of Yuzen are Kyoto Yuzen and Kaga Yuzen. In contrast to Kyoto Yuzen, which features glamorous classical designs, Kaga Yuzen more frequently features realistic painting motifs, a distinction thought to represent the different social backgrounds of Kyoto’s nobility and the samurai of the Kaga domain, a wealthy area that encompassed today’s Toyama and Kanazawa Prefectures.
The history of Kaga Yuzen goes back to a plain dyeing technique called ume-zome (Japanese plum dyeing), which was established in Kaga during the early Muromachi Period (1336-1573). Ume-zome was used to dye local Kaga silk using a dye liquor made by crushing Japanese plum bark and roots into fine pieces. However, this was a plain dyeing process, with no notable designs of any kind.
Kaga Yuzen reached a big turning point in 1712 when Miyazaki Yuzen, founder of the eponymous Yuzen dyeing technique, came to Kanazawa. He had already made innovative design dyes in Kyoto, and his techniques revolutionized Kaga’s traditional ume-zome. With a dyeing process centered around adding colored dyes to the plain shades of ume-zome, Kaga Yuzen was born.
Featuring designs almost like paintings, Kaga Yuzen, like Kyoto Yuzen before it, is completed without applying decorations such as leaves or embroidery in order to maintain a realistic quality. It employs five warm-colored tones known as the Kaga Gosai (the Five Colors of Kaga) to express a natural beauty. It is also characterized by several unique methods of expression, such as conveying shades by gradating designs from outside to inside—a technique known as soto bokashi (outer gradation)—and representing insect-bitten leaves through a technique known as mushi kui (bug bite).
Kaga Yuzen is still being practiced today using skills inherited from the Edo Period. In addition to kimono, you can choose an item from a wide variety of options ranging from coin cases to fans, or discuss a design with a Yuzen artist and custom-make a product of your own.
Ishikawa Prefectural Products Center
2-20 Kenrokumachi Kanazawa City Ishikawa Prefecture 2-20
Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Center (Kaga Yuzen Dento Sangyo Kaikan)
8-8 Koshomachi Kanazawa City Ishikawa Prefecture