Dyed Textiles: Akita Hachijo Silk

Traditional Hachijo silk has been produced by craftsmen with time and effort since the feudal government period. The brown color of the textile dyed with rosa rugosa comes out beautifully when washed.
Akita Hachijo silk’s history goes back to 1780 when Ishikawa Takiuemon from Fukushima moved to Akita and started cultivating silkworms. In 1814, Akita’s local government established the Kinukata office and tried to spread and develop the silk fabric industry. Around the same time, a dyeing technician, Tadenuma Jinpei, was sent from Jyoshu-Kiryu (today’s Gunma prefecture), and he focused on the rosa rugosa growing naturally on Akita’s beach. He made continuous efforts to use their roots as a dye, and finally succeeded in manufacturing plant-dyed silk fabric incorporating weaving and dyeing techniques. This is how Akita Hachijo silk originated.
In the later Edo period, silk became the main industry for Akita, as the products were sold in Osaka and Kyoto. The industry peaked in approximately 1894, when there were 27 weaving sites in Akita City, and the total amount of textile produced was the equivalent of 60 square kilometers.
Akita Hachijo Silk has a unique brown color, which deepens when washed and starched. The consistent weaving technique to dye each thread is used to create various kinds of stripe-patterned plain fabric, Une Ori (ridge weaving), clothes, and small items such as ties and wallets. In 1980, this silk became Akita’s Intangible Cultural Property. Akita Hachijo silk uses pure plant dyes with brown and yellow as their predominant colors. The rosa rugosa is used for reddish-brown, and kariyasu and mountain azalea for yellow. For black, rosa rugosa and logwood are mixed, and sappanwood is used for red. Natural rosa rugosa is essential to bring out Akita Hachijo silk’s color. It is picked when the flowers are blooming, and stored to die, then boiled after two to three years to bring out the color. It takes about a week to dye the threads.