A Rayon Kingdom: Fukui’s Belle Epoque
To introduce some of the rich history of textile manufacturing in Fukui, I came to Yumeore Katsuyama, in Katsuyama City, where visitors can travel back in time to the industry’s golden age and witness first-hand the state-of-the-art equipment that was used during the factory’s heyday. (As well as take part in a very fun coaster-weaving activity I’ll cover in my next post, so stay tuned!)
In Katsuyama, textile manufacturing took off in the middle of the Meiji period (1868-1912). At the time, the trade centered on ‘habutae’, or habotai, a silk fabric type of weave used, among other things, in the making of kimonos. As the prefecture prospered as a center of silk manufacturing, luxury items of the shimmering ‘habutae’ variety became synonymous with Fukui.
However, under the global recession that followed World War I, the sales of ‘habutae’ silk in Europe and America plummeted, and rayon artificial silk, cheaper and of a much higher profitability, became a popular alternative among local weavers. And whereas ‘habutae’ silk was mainly exported to Europe and America, the rayon of Fukui headed for a different region of the world, namely Asia, Africa and Oceania. In India, it was even used to make ‘sari’, women’s traditional garment!
From the beginning of the Showa era (from 1926) until World War II, Fukui came to be called a “rayon kingdom”, as most of the artificial silk in Japan was woven in the prefecture. In 1945, however, the weavers of Katsuyama operated at around 30% of their pre-war capacity. Soon enough, the industry recovered and achieved something of a renaissance. Then, from the sixties, making the best of the latest technological innovations, the manufacturers and trading companies of Fukui began developing what would become their main product, synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester.
Actually, the shoes you see on the last picture are of the exact same model than the ones the professional athlete Yoshihide Kiryu wore when he broke an historical record in the men’s 100-meter in Fukui in 2017. To think that the winning pair was made of materials created right here in Katsuyama City! 💛
Yet Another Example of Fukui Expertise: The Ribbons of Awara
Over the last few days, and with the help of the Fukui Children’s Museum exhibit, I introduced some of the fields of Made in Japan ‘monozukuri’ craftsmanship in which Fukui takes center stage. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, however! It will be my pleasure to keep on introducing more of these local success stories over the next year.
So… last but not least! Now, I had already heard of the impressive textile industry booming around here, but I didn't know the prefecture is also an important producer of ribbons! Awara City, in the north of Fukui, is responsible for over 90% of the domestic production. The making of ribbons in Fukui is said to have begun around 1907, more than a hundred years ago. It all started when manufacturers in Fukui, which was already a center of silk weaving in the country, decided to apply that expertise to the ribbon-making business that was taking off in neighboring Kyoto.
Nowadays, the ribbons and tapes of Awara are well known among international luxury and sports brands alike. Local ribbon manufacturers even manage showrooms in various cities across the globe, such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and Paris (in addition to a Tokyo showroom located in Harajuku, arguably the birthplace of ribbon-rich 'lolita' fashion).
Some, in collaborative projects with designers, also make use of the latest technology to feature their ribbons not only as materials used in the making of various items, but as their own unique products, such as elegant bookmarks you’ll want to show off around the house.
Fukui know-how sure is something to keep an eye out for!
2 635 July, 2020
The sky turns red again about 10 minutes after the sun goes down.
The face you make when you go to #akame48falls in mie and they tell you there aren’t actually 48 waterfalls. I’m calling Shenanigans on the whole operation! Lol but actually it was a really cool hike. Late June and the temp wasn’t bad at all. Was much needed after being locked down to the city for 2+ months in my shoebox apartment. Pretty sure we have a blog about it on our website kansaiguide.jp. Feel free to check it out.
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What is your favorite season to take pictures of the nature? Which one do you like more, Mt. Fuji during the cherry blossom season or in the frame of the autumn leaves?
📷 Photo by @hobopeeba
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