Aizu momen

This spring and early summer, one of the glass ‘booths’ in The Shop at Japan House London is dedicated to a display of Aizu momen cotton fabric.

Aizu momen is a durable plain-weave cotton fabric from Fukushima Prefecture in Japan’s north-eastern Tōhoku region.

Its history dates back to 1627 CE when the feudal lord of the Aizu region, Katō Yoshiaki invited weavers from his former territory of Iyo Matsuyama (present-day Ehime Prefecture) to learn the techniques of Aizu. In 1643, the new lord, Hoshina Masayuki established and encouraged the cultivation of cotton in Aizu, becoming the northernmost region in Japan where cotton could be grown.

Beautiful stripe patterns are the major characteristic of Aizu momen, with each area using its local vegetation to dye the textiles in different colours and widths of stripes. It was even possible to identify which village a person lived in based on the specific stripe pattern of their Aizu momen.

In the latter half of the Meiji period (1868-1912 CE), as the import of cotton increased and the textile industry developed, the production of Aizu momen shifted from farms to factories. Its heyday lasted until the Taishō period (1912-1926 CE). However, the widespread manufacture of Aizu momen gradually disappeared and today only three weaving workshops remain.

Visit Japan House London to find out more about the Aizu momen Aoki Weaving Workshop, and about the meaning behind the different types of fabric and striped patterns used in Aizu momen. A range of Aizu momen scarfs is on display and also available to buy in the Shop.