Kyoto: Tango Chirimen
The Kyotango area of northern Kyoto Prefecture is known as the birthplace of Tango Chirimen, a variety of crepe silk with a finely crimped texture and luxuriously soft feel. For 300 years, this fabric has been an essential part of its history and culture. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, we meet the people who produce Tango Chirimen, from the craftsmen who maintain the traditional skills of weaving and dyeing, to the modern artisans creating contemporary designs. And we explore the deep connection of this fabric with the natural environment of the Kyotango area.

Chirimen Kaido

This historic neighborhood in Yosano Town was a center for producing Tango Chirimen silk for more than 3 centuries. Many of the traditional wooden houses are still used as residences by the local people.

Kishima Shrine

This is a branch of a shrine in Kyoto that is dedicated to the god of sericulture. It was erected in 1830 in the Kyotango area by the local weavers and producers of Tango Chirimen. Whereas most shrines are guarded by statues of dogs, unusually there are 2 statues of cats here. These were offered by local merchants and silkworm farmers, as a wish to protect their silk from rodents. These statues are now a popular attraction among visitors.

Zenjoji Temple

Tango Chirimen silk was created some 3 centuries ago by Kinuya Saheiji, a weaver who learned his skills in Kyoto's Nishijin weaving district, and then further developed the technique. A bolt of fabric said to have been woven by Saheiji is kept at this local Buddhist Temple, Zenjoji, as a treasured relic.

Access

To reach Kyotango from Tokyo, it takes 2 hours by Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. After transferring to a local train, it takes another 3 hours to Mineyama Station.