The history of Aomori Prefecture’s traditional craft, Kogin-zashi embroidery, is the story of hardships faced by peasant women of the prefecture.
Located at the northernmost tip of Japan’s main island, nature is abundant in Aomori Prefecture. However, nature became the enemy in the severe winters around Mount Iwaki and the Iwaki River. Moreover, during the Edo Period (1603-1868), peasants in the area were not permitted to wear cotton clothes, so they endured the cold by wearing layers upon layers of linen. In the hope of retaining heat and providing additional strength to their clothes, the women stitched cotton thread into strategic parts of linen garments, inventing an embroidery technique known as Kogin-zashi. Kogin-zashi is carefully hand-embroidered stitch by stitch, and has come to represent the delicate dexterity and strength of Aomori’s women.
In the mid-Edo Period, cotton threads became easier to obtain, and the modest designs of Kogin-zashi gradually started to vary. In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the class system was abolished and the ban on cotton used was lifted. Cotton thread became even easier to procure, and women from farming families began to compete over the beauty of the designs they could embroider. Over time, Kogin-zashi came to be used not only for working clothes, but for festive attire as well, and became crucial to women’s wedding preparations.
Today, Kogin-zashi has changed in many ways, such as using stencils instead of designs passed down through the generations, and using a wide variety of colors for the design instead of solely relying on indigo and white. However, the traditional techniques are still cherished to this day, with their high quality rigorously maintained. Be sure to enjoy these warm designs, unique to the cold climate of Aomori Prefecture.
Aspam Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center
1-1-40 Yasukata Aomori City Aomori Prefecture
1-1 Yanakawa Aomori City Aomori Prefecture