Honba Yuki Tsumugi History Museum
Where the history of silk comes to life.
Stepping through the gates of the Honba Yuki Tsumugi History Museum is a bit like going back in time. Inside, a series of traditional buildings house the museum, a small shop, a kimono showroom and a workshop. Nothing is newer than the Meiji period and everything is stunningly beautiful.
Look for Takeji Okuzawa, the fourth generation to run this museum and family silk wholesaler business. Dressed more often than not in yuki tsumugi (hand-woven silk) — the material of his trade. He can often be found seated on the tatami floor of the vast showroom studying new patterns for the year or talking to one of the four young designers under his tutelage.
A visit to the museum — housed in a small storehouse — tells the story of yuki tsumugi’s evolution from work clothes made from cast-off silk worm cocoons to one of the most desirable kimono materials in Japan. One bolt of the hand-woven silk fabric runs upwards of ¥1,000,000 (about US$8,800) for a single color and up to ¥4,000,000 for complicated patterns. An Edo-period encyclopedia on display there describes and illustrates the weaving process, while behind it a long scroll lists all of the kimono shops (now famous department stores) where it was first sold in the city that was then called Edo — today known as Tokyo.
Those hankering for a less pricey souvenir from the area can spend a morning learning to dye and weave under the careful tutelage of Togoro Inaba, Okuzawa’s dye master. (Only a little English is spoken, so a sense of humor and a good dictionary will be indispensable.)
Take a break for lunch across the road at Ichinokura, a café in a remodeled Meiji-era building where the warm wood of old beams and traditional shikkui (plaster) walls make for a cozy respite. (Call ahead for a bento lunch or stop in anytime for simple sandwiches and piping hot coffee or tea served in some of the loveliest ceramics around.)
Head back to the workshop to pick up the finished product and perhaps even duck into the on-site shop where glorious silk shawls, accessories, scarves and even some local craft beer can be found.