MAY – 2023 15 MINS READ
Japan was once the world’s largest silk exporter. However, nowadays it produces almost no silk, and there are only a few places that still manufacture silk fabrics using traditional methods. I traveled to Komatsu City in Ishikawa Prefecture to visit these remaining factories.
Founded in 1895, OGURA FABRICS (Komatsu City, Ishikawa Prefecture) is almost the last company in Japan capable of weaving post-dyed Western-style silk Jacquard, which is one of the most delicate of silk fabrics and requires advanced techniques. Amidst a mountain of problems – declining sales, ageing craftsmen, lack of successors, the decline of the textile industry and ageing factories – the sisters stood up to help their father, the company president.

Established in 1895, the company specializes in Japanese silk Jacquard and has over 100 years of tradition and history. Before the war, the company’s main products were the “Mon-Habutae”. After the war, it was one of the first to produce wide-width patterned fabrics for export and the domestic market. In 1951, when the US Silk Industry Delegation visited Japan, Wolter Strassberger, President of the American Silk Industry Association, came to the company through the arrangement of the Nozawa-gumi trading company. The company has also received visits from the Imperial Family on numerous occasions. 


starching silk and drying
Raw silk arrives at the mill in cases as ‘skeins’. The skeins are removed from the cases and soaked in hot water. Glue is then added, and they are left to soak for a day or two.
Next, the skeins are processed using a dehydrator manufactured in the 1950s. They are wrung out and hung on clothes-drying poles while a boiler is fired up for forced drying. Finally, they are further dried in the sun.

糊付けと乾燥 :生糸は「綛(かせ)」の状態でケースに入って工場に入荷した後、そこから綛を取り出してお湯を張り、綛の生糸を漬込みます。そこに糊材を入れて一両日漬け込み寝かします。次に昭和20年代製造の脱水機に掛けて綛を絞ります。そして綛を物干し竿に掛けてボイラーを焚き強制乾燥を行います。この後更に天日乾燥を行って準備は完成です。

Dried raw yarn is transferred to a yarn reel and then to a bobbin.
糸繰り(いとくり)  : 乾燥した生糸をボビンに巻き返します。 
Warping / Beam winding
The creel with the silk yarns is positioned near the loom. The yarns are then guided through a series of tensioning devices, reeds, and guides to ensure even tension and proper alignment. This process creates the warp beam, which is a cylindrical or rectangular arrangement of parallel yarns. 
“整経” (JPN:Seikei CH:Zhěngjīng) is a term used in the silk fabric industry that refers to the process of warping. Warping is an essential step in the production of woven fabrics, including silk fabrics. It involves arranging the individual threads or yarns in a parallel and orderly manner on a loom to create the warp, which forms the longitudinal or vertical direction of the fabric.
整経 : 絹糸が入ったクリールは織機の近くに配置されます。次に糸は一定の張力装置、リード、ガイドを通して誘導され、均一な張力と適切な位置合わせがされます。このプロセスにより、平行な糸が円筒形または長方形に配置されたワープビームが作成されます。 整経は、絹織物を含む織物の製造において不可欠なステップです。織機上で個々の糸を平行かつ整然と配置して、布地の縦方向または垂直方向を形成する経糸(たていと)を作成することが含まれます。
Weft yarn winding
Weft yarn to be woven in a shuttle and wound onto a wooden tube.

管巻き  : シャトルに入れるための緯糸を木管に巻きます。このシャトル用の木管は個別と複数で巻く機械があります。巻かれた木管は終了と同時に自動的に入れ替え作業を行えます(動画参照)。 

Jacquard weave refers to a fabric in which the design itself is woven into the fabric. Unlike printed fabrics, which are printed on top of the fabric, the pattern is woven directly into the fabric, creating a luxurious and natural three-dimensional effect, and a wide range of designs can be enjoyed by combining different yarn types.

整織 : ジャカード織は、柄そのものを生地に織り込む織物のこと。小倉織物は複数台のジャガード織機を用意していいます。生地の上に柄をプリントするプリント生地とは異なり、生地に直接柄が織り込まれているため、高級感や自然な立体感があり、糸の種類を組み合わせることで幅広いデザインが楽しめます。

Joseph Marie Jacquard
The Jacquard machine is a mechanical device used in the textile industry for controlling the patterned weaving of fabrics. It was invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in the early 19th century and revolutionized the process of creating intricate and complex patterns in woven fabrics. The Jacquard machine operates as an attachment to a loom and enables the weaver to produce intricate designs by controlling the individual warp yarns. It uses a series of punched cards or a punched paper roll to dictate the pattern of the fabric. Each hole in the card or paper corresponds to a specific warp yarn in the loom.
The Jacquard machine allows for intricate and detailed designs to be woven into fabrics with precision and repeatability. It eliminated the need for manual labor-intensive processes like drawloom weaving, where each warp thread is individually controlled by a drawboy. Today, modern Jacquard machines have evolved to use electronic or computerized controls, offering even greater flexibility and complexity in fabric design.
This use of replaceable punched cards to control a sequence of operations is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware, having inspired Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
Jacquard machine
The Jacquard loom, a mechanical weaving device, employs pasteboard cards with punched holes to control the design. Each card corresponds to a single row of the pattern, and multiple cards are strung together in the desired order. Its origins can be traced back to earlier inventions by Basile Bouchon (1725), Jean-Baptiste Falcon (1728), and Jacques Vaucanson (1740). To comprehend the Jacquard loom, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of weaving. The loom consists of a rectangular frame where parallel threads, known as the warp, are stretched. In the case of plain cloth, every other warp thread is raised. A weft thread, positioned at a right angle to the warp, is then passed through the space called the “shed” between the lower and upper warp threads. Subsequently, the raised warp threads are lowered, the alternate warp threads are raised, and the weft thread is passed through the shed in the opposite direction. Through numerous repetitions of this process, the fabric gradually takes shape.
The Jacquard loom, invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard, brought automation to the process of weaving by utilizing punched cards and chains. It allowed for the creation of varied fabrics with different textures, colors, designs, and patterns. Prior to Jacquard’s invention, weaving intricate patterns manually was a slow and error-prone process.

Jacquard built upon the work of earlier inventors. Basile Bouchon, in 1725, developed an attachment for draw looms that used a strip of punched paper to select the raised warp threads during weaving. However, Bouchon’s loom had limitations in handling a significant number of warp threads. Jean Falcon, a master silk weaver, improved upon Bouchon’s mechanism in 1737 by replacing the paper strip with a chain of punched cards, allowing for the deflection of multiple rows of hooks simultaneously.

Jacques de Vaucanson, known for his mechanical toys, attempted to automate Bouchon’s mechanism between 1747 and 1750. Vaucanson’s mechanism used long pins or “needles” pressed against a punched paper sheet wrapped around a perforated cylinder to select the hooks that lifted the warp threads. However, his loom, like Bouchon’s, couldn’t control enough warp threads for elaborate patterns.

In 1804, Jacquard examined Vaucanson’s loom stored at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris. Inspired by Falcon’s chain of punched cards, Jacquard eliminated the paper strip and reintroduced the card system. Recognizing the potential of Jacquard’s loom, Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine visited Lyon on April 12, 1805, to witness its capabilities. On April 15, 1805, Emperor Napoleon granted Lyon the patent for Jacquard’s loom, while Jacquard himself received a lifelong pension and royalties for each loom sold and used between 1805 and 1811.

This innovation by Jacquard played a significant role in stimulating the French textile industry, which was competing with Britain’s industrialized industry. The Jacquard loom revolutionized weaving, allowing for the production of intricate and highly patterned fabrics with increased efficiency and accuracy. To comprehend the Jacquard loom, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of weaving. The loom consists of a rectangular frame where parallel threads, known as the warp, are stretched. In the case of plain cloth, every other warp thread is raised. A weft thread, positioned at a right angle to the warp, is then passed through the space called the “shed” between the lower and upper warp threads. Subsequently, the raised warp threads are lowered, the alternate warp threads are raised, and the weft thread is passed through the shed in the opposite direction. Through numerous repetitions of this process, the fabric gradually takes shape.

▪️ Card Design: The desired pattern is translated into a series of holes or perforations on a series of punched cards or a punched paper roll. Each row of holes represents one row of the fabric’s design.

▪️  Card Reading: The punched cards or paper roll are placed in sequence on a rotating cylinder or drum. As the loom operates, the Jacquard machine reads the pattern from the cards or paper roll one row at a time.

▪️  Loom Control: The Jacquard machine uses the information from the punched cards or paper roll to control the individual warp yarns. It lifts or lowers the specific warp threads corresponding to the pattern, allowing the weft (crosswise) yarns to pass through and create the desired design.

▪️  Shedding: The Jacquard machine controls the shedding mechanism, which creates an opening or shed between the warp yarns to allow the weft yarn to be inserted during the weaving process.

▪️  Weft Insertion: The weft yarn is inserted into the shed created by the shedding mechanism, passing through the open warp threads according to the pattern specified by the Jacquard machine.

▪️  Beat-up: After the weft yarn is inserted, the Jacquard machine releases the tension on the warp threads, and the beat-up mechanism pushes the woven weft yarn into place.

▪️  Repeat: The process is repeated for each row of the fabric’s design, with the Jacquard machine reading the pattern from the punched cards or paper roll and controlling the warp yarns accordingly.

Skilled eyes to inspect.
Silk is a very delicate fabric. Each textile must be inspected closely. This requires an experienced eye. The process of checking each piece with a magnifying glass requires meticulous work.

検反作業 : シルクの織物は大変繊細な生地です。各繊維を綿密に検査する必要があります。これには経験豊富な目が必要です。一つ一つ虫眼鏡で確認する作業は、細やかな作業が必要です。ベテランの作業員が丁寧に確認していきます。

The Refining process involves the removal of the sericin coating from the raw silk, which is extracted from the cocoon, leaving behind the fibroin fiber. The use of water plays a vital role in this process. Skilled weavers utilize ample amounts of high-quality water, resulting in silk textiles that possess a remarkable softness, almost appearing as though they are melting.


We are the Silk jacquard specialized company of Japan with the tradition and history for over a hundred years.
Figured habutae and the Komatsu figured satin were the main force of production at prewar days, and after the war, the Couhabamon cloth was produced for exporting and domestic use. In 1951, with the arrangement of Nosawa Co., Ltd., Mr. Walter Strasburger, chief director of the United States Silk trade association visited our company during the United States Silk trad missionary. Also in 1953, the present emperor had sent it as a gift for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain during his Prince age. Currently, our business development advances not only to Silk but to synthetic fiber and in the field of chemical fibers.


Monsha is an intertwined woven fabric with a ground pattern woven into the gauze. The gauze is woven with a combination of transparent and non-transparent areas. It is light, thin and has good air permeability due to its transparency, and is used for midsummer kimonos and haori.
hometown tax donation program / ふるさと納税
【明治28年創業の伝統と歴史のある絹織物メーカーがつくる扇子】絹紋紗 扇子(黒)120012
The cultural policy of the Kaga clan(before the 1868) refined the culture of performing arts, crafts and even food, but in terms of technology, the existence of the Gosaikosho is noteworthy. The Gosaikosho was a clan-run crafts factory, but from its initial focus on armoury equipment, especially during the reign of the third lord Maemeta Daritoshi and Tsunetsune, it began to handle a wide range of crafts such as makimaki-e, inlaid zouzou-gan, Japanese paper and bamboo crafts. The Kaga Clan’s craftsmen, who made furniture for the feudal lords, not only employed local craftsmen, but also recruited people from all over the country who were involved in academia, the performing arts and crafts, which led to a cultural expansion and the accumulation of skills. When Perry arrived in Uraga in 1853, and the threat posed by the Western powers led to a growing movement for the expulsion of foreigners from Japan, the Kaga Clan also established the Nanao Warship Factory in 1862, and several cannons were installed on each of the coastal platforms. The genealogy of Noto foundry techniques can be traced back to these warship (shuzo) and cannon builders. However, the founders, who had long been enriched by the production of salt pans and later by the patronage of the Kaga clan, were forced to confront further hardships during the turbulent Meiji Restoration. The ingenuity and technological innovations they developed in response became the foundation stones of a manufacturing industry that has continued to the present day.
Kaga Habutae(Habutae is a traditional Japanese woven cloth ) was known throughout Japan from the early Edo period when power looms were introduced from Kyoto, but in the mid-Meiji period, light habutae suitable for handkerchiefs and the like began to attract attention as an export product. In order to expand production, the technique of habutae weaving was introduced to the prefecture from Kiryu (Gunma Prefecture) in the late 1870s.
It is interesting to note that in 1886 (Meiji 19), the samurai industrialist Tatsutaro Kawai wrote in his book ‘Kanazawa Ron’ that ‘Kanazawa should be defined as an industry through the production of silk and textiles’. In an attempt to increase the productivity of silk textiles, Yonejiro Tsuda devoted himself to the development of Japan’s first ryokishokki loom, and the emerging weaver Yutaro Mizuto introduced the Tsuda-style ryokishokki loom and put a machine-based factory into operation. The Kanazawa habutae weaving industry was originally started to catch up with the success of the Fukui habutae weaving industry, but the fact that they did not only pursue the weaving industry, but also created power looms and set their course in the field of machine industry, is a characteristic point that differs from Fukui Prefecture and is the basis for the development of the machine industry in this prefecture.
It must not be forgotten that the silk power loom was used to meet the demands of textile production areas in various parts of the prefecture and throughout the country, and through various innovations, a wide variety of technologies were accumulated. In fact, power loom production began with Yonejiro Tsuda, and new power looms were invented one after another, including the Honda, Matsukawa, Tamura and Sugimoto styles, each of which improved performance and technology, with more than 20 types of loom being introduced to the world between the Meiji and Taisho periods. Eventually, Kanazawa looms were used throughout the country and even shipped across the sea to the Korean Peninsula.

加賀藩の文化政策(明治元年以前)は、芸能や工芸、さらには食文化に至るまで洗練されたものになりました。特に技術面で特筆すべきは御細工所の存在でした。御細工所は藩営の工芸工場であったが、当初は武具が中心であったものが、特に三代藩主前田利常の時代には、蒔絵、象嵌、和紙、竹細工など幅広い工芸品を扱うようになりました。 加賀藩の藩主御用達の家具を作る職人たちは、地元の職人を雇うだけでなく、全国から学問や芸能、工芸に携わる人材を登用し、文化の広がりと技術の蓄積をもたらしました。1853年にペリーが浦賀に来航し、欧米列強の脅威から尊王攘夷運動が高まると、加賀藩も1862年に七尾軍艦所を設立し、沿岸の各台場に数門の大砲を設置した。能登の鋳物技術の系譜は、この軍艦(修造)と大砲の製造者にまで遡ることができる。古くから塩田の生産で栄え、後に加賀藩の庇護を受けた鋳物師たちは、明治維新という激動の時代にさらなる苦難を強いられた。その中で培われた創意工夫と技術革新は、現在に続く製造業の礎となった。

加賀羽二重は、京都から力織機が導入された江戸時代初期から全国的に知られていたが、明治中期になると、ハンカチなどに適した薄手の羽二重が輸出品として注目されるようになりました。生産拡大のため、1870年代後半には桐生(群馬県)から羽二重織りの技術が導入され生産は拡大していきました。興味深いのは、1886年(明治19年)、武士の実業家・河井辰太郎が著書『金沢論』の中で、「金沢は、製糸織物を以もって産業と定むべき」 と述べていることです。 絹織物の生産性を高めるため、津田米次郎は日本初の力織機の開発に力を注ぎ、新興の織元である水藤勇太郎は津田式力織機を導入して機械工場を稼働させました。 金沢の羽二重織は、もともと福井の羽二重織の成功に追随する形で始まったが、織物業を追求するだけでなく、力織機を生み出し、機械工業の分野に進路を定めたことは、福井県とは異なる特徴的な点であり、現在の石川県の機械工業発展の基礎となっている。

© History of Ishikawa’s manufacturing industry and industrial heritage. March 2012 Ishikawa Prefecture
Of course the sushi is very good!
Haiku by Yosano Akiko (Japanese poet).
Ishikawa Prefecture still retains a good old Japanese style.