Okayama Prefecture’s distinguished textile industry traces back to the initiation of land development in the region during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
Much of the land of the Okayama Plain was formerly ocean. Since the soil’s lingering salt content made it inappropriate for rice growing, salt-resistant raw cotton was planted instead.
Meanwhile, in the southern part of of the prefecture, Kojima District—which plays a critical role in the prefecture’s textile industry to this day—mobilized its formidable labor force to start manufacturing textiles by spinning yarn from raw cotton and working it on the loom. The result was the development of a robust textile industry in Okayama on the whole.
Clothing produced in Okayama initially centered around Japanese garments such as kimono and tabi (traditional Japanese-style socks), supplemented by exports of raw materials. However, changes in the education system during the Taisho Period (1912-1926) led to a rapid increase in the need for school uniforms, and today roughly 70 percent of the school uniforms sold domestically are made through an integrated production process—from raw cotton to final final product—right in Okayama.
However, among the prefecture’s many textile products, the one with the most outstanding presence is denim. Around 1950, as clothes worn by American soldiers—including jeans—were popularly sold nationwide in Japan, jeans production began in Okayama as well. With abundant raw cotton and long experience with textile production technology, Okayama had everything it needed to make high quality denim. Further, its geographic proximity to Tokushima and Hiroshima Prefectures became an invaluable asset, since Tokushima’s traditional aizome Indigo dye made it possible to color the jeans a beautiful blue. Meanwhile, Hiroshima’s traditional kasuri technique, which allows textiles to be woven with the appearance of a dyed or splashed pattern, enabled the production of denim with a damaged or vintage look. These techniques developed over the ensuing 20 years, and from the 1970s, jeans production began in full force.
Applying such an array of traditional techniques, Okayama’s jeans have received high acclaim both domestically and internationally. Even today, Okayama denim is made through an integrated local process all the way from raw material procurement to marketing. While output has declined in recent years, the quality continues to increase, and Okayama denim is still loved all around the world.
5-2-70 Kojimashimonocho Kurashiki City Okayama Prefecture
1-107 Kojima Ekimae Kurashiki City Okayama Prefecture