Meet Your Maker – Japanese Denim Mills

Meet Your Maker: Japanese Denim Mills

Meet Your Maker: Japanese Denim Mills

Unlike the United States, which has only one remaining manufacturer of raw denim, Cone Mills, Japan is home to many active denim mills that churn out the cream of the world’s premium denim around the clock.

Japanese denim is renowned for both its quality and durability. The combination of processes used by the majority of the mills, including rope-dying and weaving on vintage shuttle looms, makes the denim produced in Japan so desirable and sought-after. In the close up images you can see some of the subtleties that set the Japanese mills apart from each other as well as apart from the rest of the world.

Kurabo Mills

Kurabo Milled Selvedge

Kurabo Milled Selvedge

The Kurabo Mills was founded over 110 years ago and it stands as one of the oldest manufactures of Japanese textiles today. The Kurabo Mill was the birthplace of Japanese selvedge denim and has pioneered many denim manufacturing practices that are in common use today.

These include using natural indigo dyes as well as a unique denim spinning and dyeing process that creates a very resilient denim with unique fading patterns. The quality of Kurabo Mills denim has earned them the respect of denim aficionados around the world.

Kurabo is most famous as being the denim that supplied Japan’s first denim brand, BIG JOHN. Today, Kurabo continues to works with many top of the denim brands in the industry including Baldwin, Epaulet, and many more.

Nisshinbo Mills

Nisshinbo Milled Denim

Nisshinbo Milled Denim

Nisshinbo  Mill was founded in 1907 with a focus on combining traditional Japanese textile manufacturing techniques and modern techniques with the aim producing only the finest products. Today they produce a wide range of textiles, but their most popular remains their ring-spun selvedge denim which is consistently regarded by denim enthusiasts to be second-to-none in terms of both quality and durability.

The company, previously focused on expansion, recently announced in a statement it is beginning to scale-down production choosing to focus more on the quality of their products rather than the quantity that they can produce.

Nisshinbo supplies denim to many popular brands including Left Field, Taylor Stitch, den.m bar, and more.

Kaihara Mills

Kaihara Milled Denim

Kaihara Milled Denim

Kaihara is a relative newcomer to the world of Japanese textiles. They were founded in 1951, some 50 years later than Kurabo or Nisshinbo, but they’ve managed to compete with the older mills through their innovations, particularly in rope dyeing.

Kaihara has a unique in-house rope dyeing technique not commonly used by other denim brands, allowing them to provide a unique high quality product that they export to a variety of brands in over 20 countries. In the 1990’s Kaihara acquired vintage shuttle looms and begin producing ring-spun selvedge denim on them, a product which remains one of their most popular favrics today.

Kaihara specializes in raw, sanforized denim. Today, Kaihara supplies brands like Evisu, Uniqlo, and Baldwin.

Japan Blue Group

Japan Blue Group Denim

Japan Blue Group Denim

The Japan Blue Group was founded only in 2005 and is comprised of various companies that represent different parts of the denim production process. Collect is the denim mill and fabric supplier; Rampuya is the dyeing division; and Japan Blue and Momotaro Jeans are the denim brands comprised of the components that Collect and Rampuya produce.

By integrating all elements of production into one company, the Japan Blue Group is able to tightly control every part of their process, guaranteeing the quality of the final products.

Momotaro is known for its high quality, and high priced denim, and Japan Blue is the more entry level, affordable line. As a whole, the Japan Blue Group has a philosophy that focuses on providing quality goods that combine old-world craftsmanship with modern designs rather than profits.

Kuroki Mill

Kuroki Milled Denim

Kuroki Milled Denim

The Kuroki Mill, located in the textile rich area of Okayama, Japan, is another relatively new denim mill which was founded in 1984. The company is divided into three parts that all focus on a different element of the production process in a similar structure to the Japan Blue Group.

The first department is called the dyeing department and it is where the denim is rope-dyed and sized for production. In the next department the denim is woven on shuttle looms which create the higly sought after selvedge lines. Finally, some denim is finished and washed while the majority of it is sold raw either sanforized or unsanforized.

Kuroki Mill supplies many top denim brands, including 3sixteen, Tellason, Taylor Stitch, and many more.

Darius Lalier

Darius is currently a student living in New York City, attending New York University. Darius has a strong interest in all things raw denim and a specific interest in American manufacturing. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @dlalier.

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  • Jun

    Ahhh Japanese denim mills…. just like how I appreciate Japanese girls over western ones….

    • Booyah

      I live in Japan. Do not get the attraction.

  • Devan Prithipaul

    great article! i think i asked for this one, so thanks for listening. although what about kurashiki? isnt that where eternal gets their denim from? regardless, thanks for the article.

    • kafi

      I am Kafi working Denim Expert Ltd, Chittagong Bangladesh,
      we are garments manufactory, We have receive a high tech denim fabric named
      KAVLAR Denim, In general it is a high density fabric which have very high
      tear and tensile strength,

      Weight of the fabric should be 15 oz,It is generally used
      for motorbike rider which protect to produce reinforcement,
      I need fabric if any one know supplier pls help me

  • Sillywizard

    I’ve been hoping for an article like this one listing the Japanese denim mills, but what about Nihon Menpu?


      Agreed Nihon Menpu are amazing also ( RRL – 45rpm)… having worked with all of them, shame they were missed of this list… but good never the less.

      • Sillywizard

        Ooo Mohsin *Bows solemnly*
        Are there any other denim mills missing from this resumé over Japanese mills?

        • Devan Prithipaul


          • beansontoastandfishandchips

            Devan. You mean Ohara Mills in Kurashiki???

      • zaazaa

        yo Mohsin. it’s Zaazaa. funny to see you here.

  • Rodspeed

    Umm….fit pics?

    • Sillywizard

      …ain’t gonna happen!

    • Kyle Smith

      they werent talking about models of jeans, they were talking about the actual fabric. baldwin, rogue territory, edwin, tellason, imogene…ect all use these same mills and fabric.

  • Denimbrain

    Naked and famous use which of japan mills? Thank you

    • Devan Prithipaul

      they use a bunch of different mills because of all of the different types of denim that they use. however they have not said which ones.

      • Grandier

        i would take a stab in the dark that N&F’s Dirty Fade were made using fabrics from Kaihara Mills (assuming the picture above is correct.) i find it too similar to my dirty fade lol

        • Grandier

          except the red lines, i do realize they have 2 redlines as opposed to 1 which are found in n&f denims

          • A Long-Time Reader

            The Kaihara Mills selvedge pictured above is not entirely indicative of the mill’s denim. While that denim was produced at Kaihara, it does not mean that all Kaihara denim has a double-lined selvedge ID.

  • Ray Conde

    Would be nice to get some sources used in writing these articles…

  • beansontoastandfishandchips

    To omitt, forget, ignore, or not even know of Nihon Menpu is scandalous! One of the best jean out there today is the Edwin Overworks Nihon menpu fabric.

  • mike

    where can I find the website of those company ? thank you

  • Myo

    I don’t believe Epaulet makes jeans anymore. I went to the store in NY last summer and they said they’re not doing jeans anymore and just go to self edge. It’s also no on the website. Unless they’re planning more in the future.

  • Oberon

    Which mill does Samurai use to make their 25 oz denim for their 15th anniversary edition pants and jackets…?

  • Denim lover

    Hi guys I am looking for sales rep for Kaihara and nissimbo in the us? Can you help?
    Many thanks