Festival Clothes from Tohoku recreated after the Great East Japan Earthquake

In Spring 2022, Japan House London hosted an installation of recreated festival costumes

Festival Clothes from Tōhoku recreated after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Festival Clothes from Tohoku recreated after the Great East Japan Earthquake

In Spring 2022, Japan House London hosted an installation of recreated festival costumes

Many coastal areas of three Tōhoku prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) lost their materials, including festival costumes, due to the damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

Festivals have long served, not only as a way to express gratitude for an abundant harvest, but also to inspire and bring life to people after periods of hunger and war. They allow for communication and joint experiences where local people can work together, providing an opportunity for the elders of the community to pass on the traditions to the younger generations.

The restoration of festival celebrations prompted the return of those who had left the area to seek shelter and helped to strengthen the community and connect it with its traditions.

The Ōtsuchi Sashiko project: how the costumes were restored

Sashiko, a way of stitching used to reinforce clothing to increase its longevity, was born from the spirit of cherishing things. By communicating the value of handcrafts, its creators contribute to the creation of a sustainable society and aim to develop a small industrial model that will bring added life to the area of Iwate Prefecture.

Due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people lost their lives in Ōtsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, and the number of people in shelters exceeded 9000. The Ōtsuchi Sashiko project was started by elderly women who couldn’t do the hard physical labour of removing rubble and by women who had lost their jobs. Though confined to the limited space of their shelters, with only needles, threads and cloth, they were able to make sashiko.

In cooperation with Kyoya somemonoten Inc.

Founded in 1918 CE in Ichinoseki Town, Iwate Prefecture, Kyoya is a dyehouse which produces costumes for festivals and performing arts. To keep alive the techniques which are required for creating these costumes, Kyoya also develops such techniques for clothing that can be worn in everyday life. Kyoya employs craftspeople who specialize in each stage of the creation process – from designing, to dyeing and sewing – in order to tailor the finished items according to people’s requirements.

Over the past 10 years, Kyoya has recreated the costumes of about 60 folk performing arts that had been lost in the earthquake.

About the festival costumes


Hanten (半纏) is a type of short coat that was often worn in urban areas by working people, such as carpenters and merchants, during the Edo period (1603 -1868 C E). When worn by firefighters it served as a uniform; when worn with matching designs by participants of religious festivals, it served as a proof of solidarity; and when a shop’s name or crest was born by it, it served as a sort of substitute for business cards.


Yukata (浴衣) is a long unlined cotton garment. During the Kamakura period (1192 -1335 CE) the aristocracy wore linen clothing for bathing, which later became used as an undergarment. With the growth in popularity of the summer Bon Festival dance in the early Edo period (16th century CE), yukata started to be widely worn for the Bon dance and other summer festivals. People also started to wear them after bathing and for cooling down on hot summer evenings.