As mentioned in our previous post, Kurashiki city in Japan’s Okayama prefecture is considered the birthplace of Japanese denim. The city’s Kojima district is where indigo dye is produced and used to dye the cotton which is then woven into denim.
This entire process takes place all within Kojima via a large network of family-owned businesses. Once the denim has been produced it is then shipped off to international clients or to the jeans makers; some of whom have factories just down the street, others who are located across Japan (such as Osaka’s Samurai Jeans Co.). The detail and quality of Japanese denim has made Kojima famous amongst garment makers around the globe.
In fact, the people of Kojima use the notoriety of their denim as a tourist attraction. There is an official Japan Rail “Kojima Jeans History” tour bus that makes its way around a circuit, stopping at different factories, dye shops and jeans producers. A day-long bus pass is only ¥500, about $6 USD.
A few of the stops on the tour include the Kojima Jeans Musem, a museum dedicated to (you guessed it) the denim-making process and jeans throughout the ages. The museum is owned and operated by local Kojima jeans-maker Betty Smith (company name, not a person). Their Japanese-language website is here for those who are curious.
Also on the bus route is an outlet mall carrying many of the local producers’ jeans and denim products. However, easily the coolest parts of the entire tour are the stops at Takashiro Senko and Rampuya – two of Kojima’s most popular aizome kobo, which is Japanese for indigo-dyeing factories.
Both of these factories provide multiple tours a day. Best of all, if you book in advance you can try your own hand at indigo dyeing cotton. This amazing opportunity is offered at both Takashiro Senko (english site available) and Rampuya (Japanese only).