Textiles of Kyushu
small group journey
Kurume Kasuri & Fiber Art
Welcome to Kyushu, a land with a unique cultural landscape and history. Much of its unique native arts show the deep influence of the area’s early international trade.
On this 8-day tour, we will first visit Yame, a small town that is little-known to tourists, but a destination for Kurume Kasuri, a Cultural Heritage. Kurume Kasuri is one of the three largest types of kasuri that exist in Japan (the others are Iyo Kasuri from Ehime and Bingo Kasuri from Hiroshima). The fabric making process for kasuri is similar to that of Indonesian “ikat” in that the cotton threads are first tied then dyed according to the design pattern before weaving. These pre-dyed threads are used for both warp and weft (“double ikat”) to create the geometric patterns, often called “splash designs”, known as Kurume Kasuri today. While there, we will also learn about the local Monpe Project, a new approach to the design and wearing of traditional women’s work pants made from kasuri fabric.
This region is also famous for many other fiber arts and crafts, and tea farming. During our journey, we will be visiting artisan papermakers, an aizome (indigo) dye studio and weavers, MoonStar shoe manufacturers, as well as a sake brewery and a tea farm (yame-cha).
The last two days of our journey will be spent in Nagasaki, a seaside city with a unique history influenced by its earlier international trade. Unfortunately, Nagasaki is also sadly better known for its recent tragic past as one of the two cities where an atomic bomb was dropped, than for its dynamic present. We are going to explore this cheerful cosmopolitan city that has trams gliding through its downtown, and relax along its attractive harbor. Other gems of Nagasaki arose from its long history of engagement with Christianity. On the hillsides overlooking the bay are beautiful gardens and examples of western architecture, reminders of Nagasaki’s once-thriving foreign trade. The world-acclaimed Puccini opera Madam Butterfly and the novel on which it is based are set in Nagasaki as well. Enjoy two relaxing days in this historical city of Kyushu!
- Welcome dinner
- Visit the Yame Traditional Crafts Center and the Yame Folk Center
- Visit Unagi No Nedoko to learn about the Monpe Project
- Participate in an all-day aizome Indigo dye workshop
- Tour the Kitaya Sake Brewery
- Tour the Shimogawa weaving studio to learn about the design and technique of Kurume Kasuri
- Visit an artisan washi maker
- Visit a Yame tea farm (yame-cha)
- Tour the MoonStar Shoe Factory to learn how local fabric and rubber are being made into world-class shoes
- Sightseeing in Nagasaki City
- Tour of gardens and historical buildings
- Farewell dinner
Next spring, escape the crowds and travel the off beat path of Kyushu to discover the richness of textile and fiber arts.
Monday, March 8th
We start our journey in Kyushu, the southwesternmost mainland of Japan. Unlike its counterpart mainland, Kyushu is an island with a unique landscape and rich cultural history from earlier trades with neighboring countries. Kyushu’s many volcanic mountains including Mt. Aso and Mt. Sakura has been enriching and providing hot springs and oasis to people of the region. It is also Kyushu’s unique geological landscape with Aris style coastal line and tidal wetland which makes Kyushu famous for fishing, growing nori seaweed and farming pearls. We are staying overnight in the capital of Fukuoka, the largest city in Kyushu. After checking in at a hotel, we will gather together as a group for dinner, get to know each other and share our thoughts about our upcoming experience and the native textiles and fiber arts of Kyushu.
After breakfast, we will head to Yame city, our destination for learning Kurume Kasuri. Yame city is a district of Fukuoka prefecture with a population of little over 60,000. The region is surrounded with a mix of open plains and mountain valleys and provides the wealth of unspoiled natural beauty. The open plains are used in growing crops such as wheat, rice and tea giving the region agricultural stability and the clean water and immeasurable natural resources help many traditions of craft making cherished and preserved to this day.To help us understand Yame’s crafts, we will first visit The Yame Traditional Crafts Center. The Yame Traditional Crafts Center showcases the local art of making Buddhist altars, festival and garden lanterns, bamboo crafts, washi making, pottery and Yame arrow which are still the driving force of the local economy.
After visiting the Yame Traditional Crafts Center, we will set our foot in Unagi No Nedoko. Unagi No Nedoko is a local shop that introduces native crafts of the region with the mission of creating a sustainable future for the makers and the local culture. We are going to learn about the Monpe Project, a collaboration between Unagi No Nedoko and local weavers and dyers. Monpe is a traditional women’s work pants that originated during the war and quickly became popular, especially among farmers. To save fabric, women were asked to unsew their kimono and to make them into work pants. Prior to WW 2, it was not accustomed for Japanese women to wear pants.
There are a handful of natural Aizome (indigo dye) studios and ateliers in the Yame region and today we are going to get our hands dirty at an all-day dye workshop. In the tradition of Kurume Kasuri, we will first learn the materials, fermentation process, design pattern, and the dyeing process. We will also learn about the “double ikat” process which makes the weaving in this region uniques.Before heading back to the hotel, we will visit and tour Kitaya, a local sake brewery, for a tasting and introduction to the sake making process.
Shimogawa weaving studio has been weaving Kurume Kasuri for three generations using 20 vintage shuttle looms. Although they make Kasuri with machinery, their mission is to “make the fabric as soft as hand-woven ones” by reducing the warp yarn and weaving with weak tension on the loom. Mr. Shimogawa, the third generation studio owner also travels internationally to work with designers and museums to share the design and process of Kurume weaving. If you like to sew or a maker, Shimogawa studio is a great place to purchase Kurume Kasuri with multiple designs and styles for your crafts projects home.Equally famous to Kurume Kasuri is Chikugo Japanese Paper (Chikugo is a name of the region) and there are still eight active washi makers along the Yabe River (down a bit from 1800 papermakers in the 1920s). This paper is beloved by many artists for its strength, elegance, and pliability and often used in woodblock prints, bookbinding, and traditional lanterns. In 1970, Chikugo Japanese Paper and its hand made washi paper received the Intangible Cultural Asset Award. We will visit a private papermaking studio and learn the process of making the artisan paper.
After check out, we are going to visit the Yame tea farm on the hillside before heading to visit MoonStar shoe company. Yame tea only accounts for 3% of tea production in Japan but 45% of all Gyokuro (shade-grown premium) tea in Japan is from the Yame and Chikugo region. Enjoy the delicate flavor of this premium tea.In the afternoon, we will visit the MoonStar shoe company near Kurume station. Many parts of Kyushu are home to industrial materials such as rubber and coal, and Kurume is no different. For the past 140 years, MoonStar shoes have been making shoes by merging both rubber and textile of the region with dedication and pride of craftsmen and women. Today, these colorful and stylish shoes are sold all over the world including the United States.
Evening transfer to Nagasaki city.
Welcome to Nagasaki, a seaside cosmopolitan city. Nagasaki was the earliest and the only port open to trade with foreign countries during isolation and thus has a unique cultural ambiance compared to the rest of Japan.After breakfast, we will tour the famous Glover Garden and western architectures on the hillside as well as learn about the earlier Christian settlers. We will enjoy Nagasaki Chanpon (wheat noodle soup with seafood and cabbage, similar to ramen) or Sara Udon (fried noodle with seafood and vegetable topping) for lunch and Kasutera (pound cake influenced by Portugees) for dessert.
In the afternoon, we will visit Dejima, an artificial island off the harbor which was used as a Dutch-trading post in the 17th century. Here we can learn about the earlier history of trade and the lives of international businessmen and people surrounding them. As mentioned in the intro, many books and stories about international romantic novels were written based on people in Dejima and its surroundings.
Today is left open for you to explore the city on your own. On Day 6, I will be available to talk to you all about the possibilities of places to visit and things to do.In the evening, we will gather as a group for a farewell dinner and reflect on the time we spent together in Kyushu. We will pack our luggage for the next morning’s departure to Fukuoka International Airport.
I wish you a safe journey home.
March 8 – 15, 2021
$4200 per person, double occupancy
$4600 per person, single occupancy
($100.00 discount for check payment)
Deposit of $750.00 due at the time of registration (non-refundable)
Workshops and Demonstrations in Itinerary
Guide & Interpreter from TanpopoStudio
Transportation to/from Fukuoka International Airport to hotel
what’s not included:
travel or medical insurance
flight to/from Japan
personal spending including:
shopping, alcohol, laundry, some meals
koshiki yonemura, 651-734-3923, email@example.com