August 16, 2006
by Chiaki Imanaka
Chirimen is a traditional weaving technique that was developed in the late sixteenth century in Japan. The cloth or silk fabric that is made from this technique is also called “chirimen.” The cloth has the unique feature of soft wrinkles. According to the pamphlet from the Chirimen Craft Museum, “the wrinkles are created by alternating two types of silk thread, twisted in different directions, by turns in the weft. The woven cloth is at first flat, but the wrinkles suddenly emerge after rinsing dirt out of the thread. This is the moment when the breathtaking beauty of the wrinkles is born.” These wrinkles are called “shibo” in Japanese. The shibo also appear because the weft (the thread being woven) is ten times thicker than the warp (the set of lengthwise threads). Chirimen is mostly used for finely made kimono. However, in chirimen craft, small pieces of the chirimen cloth are sewn together to create small, artful objects such as flowers, birds, animals, dolls, and small toys.
These days, Japanese women have advanced the art of chirimen by taking up the chirimen craft. Many of them want to cultivate themselves by learning to value fine things, develop their aesthetic sense, and become skilled with their hands. Now chirimen is also used as a material for pouches, wallets, bags, and other fashionable Japanese goods.
The Chirimen Craft Museum
There are several chirimen craft shops that have many cute items for sale in Kyoto. One of them shops is the Chirimen Craft Museum in Arashiyama. Other chirimen shops can be found on the Nishiki market street in central Kyoto and in the district of Gion. One popular item that is sold only at the shop in Arashiyama is the “hanging hina “hina” means “doll”. It is a kind of good luck charm that is hung from the ceiling and is used to pray for the health and happiness of children. Besides “hanging hina dolls” you can buy many different kinds of craft items made of chirimen: pierced earrings, combs, necklaces, pouches, T-shirts, and other small items. Seasonable articles are also popular. Some of them are made for a particular month. For example, for the month of June, which is known for the rainy season in Japan, there is a chirimen frog, tadpole, and snail for sale. Other sewn chirimen figures include seasonal vegetables, flowers, and animals. One item that is especially recommended is the chirimen rabbit. These are sold at a very reasonable price. In this store a lot of chirimen crafts are displayed. Have a good time in the Chirimen Craft Museum!
Chirimen Craft Museum, Arashiyama
Business hours: 10:00~18:00
Address: 19-2, Tsukurimichi-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Business hours: 10:00~17:30
Address: Hokusei-kado, Nishikikoji-dori Yanaginobanba, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto