The Kaga Yuzen Experience In Ishikawa Will Bring Out The Artist In You | CoolJapan
One popular tourist activity in Japan is trying out traditional wear such as yukatas and kimonos. But if you want to try a different aspect of this experience, why not go for a kimono fabric-dyeing activity instead such as the Kaga-Yuzen dyeing experience in Ishikawa Prefecture?

What is the Kaga Yuzen?

Kaga Yuzen is a silk-dyeing technique practised in Ishikawa with roots as long as 500 years ago. Using five basic colours called Kaga-gosai — indigo, crimson, dark green, ocher, and purple — designs are drawn on paper and then transferred to white silk. At present, fabric using this dyeing technique is used to create kimonos, fans, handkerchiefs, and other types of apparel.

What is the Kaga Yuzen dyeing technique?

A sample of the Kaga Yuzen dyeing technique used on a kimono. (Photo from: © Ishikawa Prefectural Tourism League)

The history of Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing

This dyeing technique traces its roots back to the 17th century when more intricate patterns and designs on fabric were introduced. Yuzensai Miyazaki, a known designer and dyer from Kyoto’s Tarodaya dyeing house, is said to have contributed greatly to the development and popularity of this practice.

In 1712, Yuzensai travelled from Kyoto to Kanazawa, earning the favour of feudal lords in the Kaga district for his work. This pushed other designers and dyers to adopt the method, leading to its fame up to the present.

The history of Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing

Trying a Kaga Yuzen experience requires time and patience but it’s absolutely satisfying once you see the final result. (Photo from: ©JNTO)

The concept and artistry behind Kaga Yuzen

Kaga Yuzen is achieved by shading a certain pattern from the outside to the inside. Its common motifs are inspired by nature, often featuring flowers, landscapes, and animals. Details such as insect-bitten leaves also give the Kaga-Yuzen technique a realistic touch.

The concept and artistry behind Kaga Yuzen

Kaga Yuzen uses five base colours called Kaga-gosai. These colours are indigo, crimson, dark green, ocher, and purple. (Photo from: ©JNTO)

What separates Kaga Yuzen from other dyeing techniques such as Kyo-Yuzen (a.k.a. dyeing technique from Kyoto) is it doesn’t adopt methods used in tie-dyeing or embroidery. It’s also very delicate and time-consuming, considering the amount of detail and mastery that goes into each piece.

Contemporary Kaga Yuzen artists also use the original Kaga-gosai or Kaga colours as their base to create new shades for their works.

Kaga Yuzen classes that travellers can sign up for

Kaga Yuzen classes that travellers can sign up for

Travellers can try the Kaga Yuzen experience at the Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center located in Ishikawa. (Photo from: ©JNTO)

Ready to embrace your inner artist? There are several Kaga Yuzen classes that travellers can try. Children as young as five years old can participate, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Book your classes in advance here.

The first option is free-hand dyeing, where participants can create their own designs by hand on a handkerchief. The other option is using a stencil, where participants would choose from pre-made patterns to use as a reference for their output. This second option can be done on a handkerchief or a tote bag and all finished works can be taken home as a souvenir.

Classes last from 20 to 60 minutes depending on the chosen session and the rates range from JPY1,650 to JPY2,750 per person and. Group sessions require prior booking.

(Cover photo from: ©JNTO)