Visit artistic Kawashima Textile Museum

– Find the culmination of weaving technology of art there

kawashima- Logo x01.JPG       Kawashima Textile (currently Kawashima Selkon Textiles) is a Kawashima- Museum-x02.JPGlegendary Nishijin textile companies in Kyoto. This Kawashima established an artistic museum in 1990s, named “Textile Museum”, to explore the new form of weaving technology and to disseminate Japanese traditional textile-making craftsmanship in the world. The Museum now exhibits various historical fabric works in Japan as Kawashima- Tsuzure -x01.JPGwell as variety of textile products around the world. Especially, the exhibition of fine artistic woven textiles are glorious. I had a chance to stop by this museum and could observe its wonderful collections while traveling in Kyoto. I found there amazing fusion of modern textile industry and traditional artistic woven works which crystalized into the aesthetics world.  This is a description of this visit.


川島織物文化館 (Kasahima Memorial Hall) Home Page:Kawashima- Museum-x03.JPG


♠  What’s Kawashima Textile in history

Today, “Kawashima Co.” is known as a total textile manufacturer which is Kawashima- Jinbehe x01.JPGproducing room curtains, theater backdrop, car seats, etc. not only Kawashima- Jinbehe x04.JPGJapanese Kimono. But, the history of Kawashima Textile is quite long and it could traced back to 1843 when the Kawashima Jinbehe opened a kimono shop “Umedaya” at Nishijin area in Kyoto. After that, Jinbehe Jr. (Second Kawashima) established “Kawashima Weaving Company” in 1887. There, he challenged to produce a new interior decoration works using traditional woven cloths, especially for the Western style wall decoration “tapestry”.

Kawashima- Jinbehe x02.JPG     Among them, the wall fabrics with sophisticated making of the decoration for the German Imperial Room, and Emperor Meiji’s New Palace interior decorations are quite significant and these works builtKawashima- Deco room x04.JPG the foundation of company as an establishing company. Also, the company successfully gained reputation by producing Japanese style interior decoration for the authentic room art of “Jakuchu no Ma” ( a famous Edo painter of Jakuchu’s picture room) at the Expo of St. Louis in 1904).

<Nishijin’s  turbulence history>

Meanwhile when Looks back to the textile development history, the Kawashima- Obi x01.JPGformally traditional Nishijin industry in Kyoto had been greatly flourished during the Edo period, but, since the end of the Tokugawa period, the expensive Nishijin Kawashima- works x02.JPGtextile products was declined and lose market caused by the fall of affordable Kyoto’s wealthy class. Under these circumstances, Kawashima visited Lyon, the center of the French textile industry at that time, in order to find the way of new modern textile industry. It seemed that they tried to explore the new sphere of Nishijin waving technology, particularly by focusing on the pattern weaving technique developed by Jacquard looms.

<Challenges of Kawashima Jinbehe>

        Kawashima Jinbehe (second) paid attention to the Goran woven products used for Kawashima- works x01.JPGtapestries at that time. He thought that if they applied the “Tsuzuri-ori” weaving technology which had been developed in Japan, applied it to Golan weaving Kawashima- Tsuzure -x12.JPGtechnology of Europe for the tapestry, then Japanese professional craftsman was surely able to produce a competitive interior decorative s tapestry fabric using silk threads.

<Epoch-making Tsuzre-nishiki Ori and Hibo Kannon>

Kawashima- Museum-x01.JPG        Based on this idea, in 1889, “Kawashima Textile Reference Center” was established in northern Kyoto and started the research work on the full-fledged “Tsuzre-nishiki Ori” weaving methods. (This research facility has been upgraded to the “Kawashima Textile Museum” kawashima- Kannon x03.JPGseveral decades later). Here, Kawashima first opened the new ground of artistic woven fabrics by upgrading Japanese textile technology with “Warimoku” (stereoscopically expressing weave with blur) and cultivating other methods. As its final achievement was come when the company gained the worldwide reputation by presenting a woven works at  the Paris Expo, named “Hibo Kannon”(Mercy Mother Bodhisattva)“which was faithfully simulated fabric of notable painter’s “Kano Hogai” painting.(see picture)

<Technology transfer to the next generation>

kawashima- Logo x03.JPG        Kawashima Textile is said to be designated as a prominent company which effectively blends the traditional Japanese textile industries with artistic cultural world, and also the company built the Kawashima- illust x07.JPGfoundation of interior fabrics of western-style (such as tapestry) in the early time of Japan with fine artistic technology. So “Kawashima Textile Museum” would be one of the most precious facilities in Japan to show the artistic and the historical achievement of textile technology.

Kawashima- illust x02.JPG       In addition, Kawashima has established the “Central Technology and Cultural Center” near the Museum. Many R&D institutes were situated like Kawashima’s textile research function, traditional hand-woven workshop, modern machinery weaving factory, and others. The Kawashima Textile School and Kawashima Maestro School is also installed there to educate young people.

 Exhibition of Kawashima Textile Museum

The Museum has collected tens of thousands of textile products describing Kawashima- Old x04.JPGdevelopment history of textile culture in the world, such as ancient fabric clippings, China’s woven cloths, Coptic textile pieces, various costume goods, and others. Among others they store over eighty thousand kawashima- Kimono x01pieces of Japanese textiles from ancient times, hundred thousands of world fabrics, woven ornamental paintings and sketches, and designated as one of the Japanese textile research center, particularly on the artistic textile technology.

<Artistic exhibits of products of Tsuzure-nishiki >

The exhibits are arranged along the line of historical order and artistic category, so visitors well understood the background of artistic textile technology and the meaning of their cultural bases by observing collection.

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x01.JPG      The exhibition is roughly displaying following order, like “Mai” (Ancient dance picture) series, Kawashima’s Meiji period works, decorative tapestry work, Japanese Kimono & “Obi” (Japanese waist belt) works, and world textile world.Kawashima- Tsuzure -x03.JPG

The first “Mai” products are a group of woven works of describing the scene of “Bugaku” dance that was usually performed on the occasion of rituals and festivals from old days. They are artistic products processed by the fine combination of threads woven vertically and horizontally. These are the weaving products to illustrate precise appearance with the original artistic painting.

<Kawashima’s memorial products>

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x10.JPG

Kawashima- Deco room x03.JPG        The “Meiji fabric” of the second exhibition is the woven design works of designed with flower and bird motifs that had been ardently produced in the Meiji period. The flower and bird design was known as the most favorite theme of Kawashima in the initial time of the company, and the series of products were highly appreciated around the world. Among the collections, the magnificent works which were ordered by the Russian Prince Nikolai (Nikolai II) are included.

<Modern art of tapestry>

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x05.JPG        The third exhibition is the works of wall-hung tapestry for indoor decoration, which is mostly the new modern design ones in the late Showa period. Many wall-hanging fabrics drawing abstract paintings are displayed there, such as saddle-walled hangings named “Blowing Wind” (1973) and “Birth of the Universe” (1986), and Kawashima- illust x01.JPGothers.  All of them were wonderful designed fabric works with full of artistry.
(Unfortunately, photography in the museum was not allowed, so I cited the most pictures from the images in the available pamphlets and others sources).

Besides these works the Museum also tries to exhibit the historical records and documents which is indicating the development history of weaving technology from Meiji to Showa period, as well as the production and interior decoration pictures produced by Kawashima

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x04  Kawashima- Tsuzure -x06.JPG

<Technology of Tsuzure-nishiki > 

Inside the hall, the special corner is provided to introduce the peculiar technology of Kawashima- illust x06.JPGKawashima- Tsuzure -x08.JPG“spinning and weaving” developed by Kawashima and shows actual weaving process by video, so visitors is able to learn the history and development background of artistic woven fabrics from them.

It is remarkable exhibition, in every sense, that makes Kawashima- Tsuzure -x09.JPGvisualize the technology advancement of woven products from simple clothes of Kimono to expand to the world of room interior decoration, and enhances “weaving products” as a painting art works applied Japanese traditional woven technique.

♠  After visit

To be honest, it was my second time to visit this Kawashima Textile Museum here. kawashima- Kannon x02.JPGKawashima- Tsuzure -x02In the 1990s, I had visited there once accompanied with overseas students and trainees to introduce Japanese traditional textile industry. I still remember that I was impressed to see the fabrics being transformed into the fine artistic paintings with sophisticated designs at that time though I knew a bit about the Nishijin textile technology in Kyoto, of course. Particularly, I was amazed with the work of “Mercy Kannon” that was displayed in the front wall of the museum hall. When I visited, I couldn’t see this artistic product because it had already gone to other museums, but I could confess that I was deeply moved by observing many other artistic collections this time again.

Honestly I’ve satisfied I could touch a little about the footprints of Kawashima’s fabric development during the Meiji modernization processes, which seemed to add new values to the “textile” by fusing traditional handcraft work of        Japanese Nishijin with modern textile industrial technology, It was really impressive experience for me.



  1. 川島織物文化館パンフレット
  2. 「美の体現 技の系譜」(川島織物文化館刊)
  3. {建築を飾るテキスタイル}(川島織物文化館刊)
  4. 川島織物文化館 (Kasahima Textle Museum) Home Page:
  1. 西陣織とは(西陣織工業組合)
  2. 川島テキスタイル・スクール




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