Nara Zarashi(奈良晒:Nara Bleaching)

Traditional crafts

1.What is Nara Zarashi(Nara bleaching)?

Origin of Nara Zarashi

“Nara Zarashi” may not be familiar to you, but it is a high-quality linen fabric.

It is said that it has been used as a Kasaya of the Nanto temple since the Kamakura period.

Also written as Nara exposure.

In the latter half of the 16th century, Migenshiro Kiyosu (the grandfather of Michikiyo Kiyosu), who made achievements according to Ieyasu Tokugawa, began bleaching in Nara and succeeded in improving the bleaching method, which later developed into an industry representing Nara. It becomes the foundation.

The heyday

In “Tamonin Diary”, there is an article related to bleaching in 1549 (18th year of Astronomy).

It is known that hemp weaving using ramie was already produced in the latter half of the Muromachi period, but it was not until the Edo period that the Nara bleaching business as a product production was established.

Nara Zarashi, which was controlled and protected as an item of the Tokugawa Shogunate, has come to be used for the best kimono and palace clothes given to the daimyo who have made achievements by the Shogunate.

With the great demand for samurai, Nara bleaching has increased its production to the point where it is said to be the “best in the southern capital” industry.

From the middle of the 17th century, when it was at its peak, to the Kyoho era (1716-1736), it boasts an annual production volume of 300,000 to 400,000 swords (1 sword (Ippiki) = 2 swords. The prosperity at that time was even appearing in Saikaku Ihara’s “For World Chest Calculation”.

In the Edo period, it became a major product for Nara Town and was in its prosperity.

In the middle of the Edo period, it was confirmed that with the development of Nara Zarashi, processes such as thread making and weaving were widely performed even in rural areas where the main changes occurred, and about 90% of the residents of Nara Town have some meaning. It seems that it was said that it was related to Nara Zarashi.

It is made by exposing the hemp raw flat to pure white and has been regarded as a representative luxury item among Japanese hemp fabrics.

It was carried out as a side business of agriculture and was actively woven.

It is a woven fabric that has been described as “the best of hemp” because of its high quality and the beauty of white.

In 1611 (Keicho 16th year), by order of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Nara bleaching was stamped with the main cause of “Nanto Kai” on the edges of all fabrics, and bleaching without a red stamp was banned from sale.

Recognized as a purveyor to the Tokugawa Shogunate, it increased the fame of Nara bleaching, and was used as a luxury item for samurai families and townspeople, as a kamishimo and as a summer gift.


However, after the Meiji Restoration, demand dropped sharply, and after that, hemp fabrics and silk / wood fabrics continued to force bleachers to gradually change or close their businesses.

In 1736 (the first year of the Genbun), about 230,000 swords a year, in 1842 (the 13th year of Tenpo), about 110,000 swords, in 1868 (the first year of the Meiji era), about 50,000 swords, and now in the field of traditional crafts. It is only produced on a small scale.

In “Edo period human resource development wind time 29 Nara” published by Nosan Fishing Village Cultural Association in 1998, it became impossible to maintain a monopoly position due to the rise of good products from other countries such as Echigo Shrink, Omi Azabu, and Noto Shrink. It mentions soaring cost prices and rampant inferior goods.

Moreover, at the end of the Edo period, the disappearance of the samurai, which was the greatest demand, became a decisive factor, and Nara bleaching lost its power as an industry.


Many factories and craftsmen were forced to close down due to the remarkable decline of Nara Zarashi, but it is still produced in a small amount in Tsukigase Village in the eastern part of Nara City.

Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, which traded Nara bleaching, built its own factory in Tsukigase from the end of the Meiji era, the Taisho era, and the Showa era, and collected oriko from nearby farmers.

In addition, he made efforts to improve and inherit the machine weaving technology and to revitalize Nara Zarashi by introducing grade judgment into Oriko’s wages.

In addition, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten exhibited a hemp handkerchief at the World Expo held in Paris, France in 1925.

The fine hand-woven fabric is hand-woven with bird-grass wood crests, and five of them still exist, one of which was originally a Nara-bleached business workplace. It is displayed in the “Yu Nakagawa Main Store”, which is the first directly managed store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten.

The quality is so good that it is said that “the best of hemp is the southern capital”.

The material of Nara Zarashi is hemp.

Among them, the type of ramie (Choma. Karamushi / Aoso) is mainly used.

The fibers of this ramie are woven into threads and woven with twisted warp threads and untwisted weft threads (this weaving method is called “flat cloth”).

It takes one month just to pluck the yarn, and 10 days even for a skilled Oriko to weave one weave (24 meters).

The road to the “top” was daunting.

Materials / tools

Ramie, a type of hemp.

However, cannabis has been used since the end of the Meiji era due to the decrease in production and soaring prices.

In both cases, single fibers (short fibers that do not become threads as they are) are bound to each other by impurities such as tannin.

Therefore, when impurities are removed by exposure, not only the color is lost, but also the binding of the fibers is weakened, creating a soft texture.

2.Working process

The production process is roughly divided

① Chomi

② Woven cloth

③ Exposure

There are 3 steps.

① Achievement

Cannabis (blue ramie) is piled up into threads and twisted to make warp threads, which are warped according to the frequency.

Glue, squeeze, etc. and put on the machine.

(* Currently, the raw material cannabis is purchased from Tochigi Prefecture.)

② Woven cloth

Put it in a navel-wound weft shuttle and weave it through the shuttle between the warp threads that have been machined.

③ Exposure

The woven linen cloth (Ikuhei) is bleached to white after several plate foot processes.

With this fabric, you can hand-sew the tea ceremony of each tea ceremony school, and mainly dye it with goodwill, tapestries, bag accessories, etc.

I am making it.

3.Traditional craftsman

This time, I would like to tell you about the activities of the ” Tsukigase Nara Sarashi Preservation Society, ” which is not a traditional craftsman but is still active without interrupting tradition.

It was established in 1984 for the purpose of handing down the textile technology of Nara Zarashi.

We are devoting ourselves to the preservation and handing down techniques so as not to break the tradition of Nara Zarashi.

Nara bleaching is still a woman’s job.

At the site, local women are learning and communicating the technique.

However, this traditional technique has been cut off once.

The purpose of the preservation society is to aim for its revival.


Nara Zarashi textile technology was designated as an intangible cultural property in 1979 (Showa 54).

Furthermore, the Tsukigase Nara Zarashi Preservation Society has been established in Tsukigase Village, and efforts to preserve the technology are still ongoing, such as manufacturing Nara Zarashi using traditional techniques.

Hemp and Japanese culture

In the past, cannabis was a part of Japanese people’s lives, and in particular, “Azabu” from cannabis was an essential part of their lives.

Hemp is a general term for cannabis, ramie, flax, etc., and most of the native hemp in Japan is called ” cannabis ”.

Before World War II, when the GHQ occupation policy enacted the “Cannabis Control Law” and banned it in principle, Japan was encouraged by the state to grow cannabis and became a large industry.

Japan has a long tradition of hemp since ancient times.

The hemp industry is also said to enable food and energy self-sufficiency and environmental protection in Japan.

There are concerns that the self-sufficiency rate of food is 40%, but the self-sufficiency rate of clothing is even lower.

And most of it is made up of chemical fibers that rely on petroleum energy.

Currently, the self-sufficiency rate of silk, cotton and hemp in Japan is less than 1%.

Most of the traditional Japanese kimono threads also rely on imports.

It is said that Japanese hemp culture has a history of more than 10,000 years, as hemp fibers and seeds have been found in the remains of the Jomon period 10,000 years ago.

It has become a wind-blown light in just over 60 years after the war.



”I am alive. I will make use of it in manufacturing while I am alive. I have the consciousness that I respect God, respect my ancestors, protect nature. I am protecting it. That is the background of original manufacturing. It means that mountain spirits and tree spirits dwell in all sources. ”

It is the word of the priest of Kawakami Benzaiten Shrine.

As you can see from these words, Nara Zarashi is a traditional craft that has the soul and heart of a craftsman that you can’t feel with the convenient and inexpensive miscellaneous goods that you use in your daily life.

Once you touch the traditional crafts that are familiar to you, you may be able to create emotions and ideas that you have never felt before!

Next time preview

Thank you for reading to the end (^^) /

Next time, I would like to post about ” Nishijin-Ori ”.

Let’s have a good trip!