Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0104


Copyright © 2020 Keiko Okamoto


When the Japanese word yūzen is translated into English, it is hard to find an exact expression, as yūzen is used to describe both “hand-painted dyeing on textiles” and a “look-alike style of prints.” Yūzen is the unique aspect of Japanese “motif dyeing” in which the pre-modern hand-painted method survives when printing methods are used for mass production.

The Ueno family from Kyoto devoted themselves to design and manufacture of high-end hand-painted yūzen dyeing since the early twentieth century.

This paper will follow the Ueno family’s one hundred years of contributions to kimono textile development along with its applications and featured textiles. In their early business days, Tameji and his father provided yūzen textile designs to merchants and dyers, while they collected and researched textile archives from the Edo period to develop innovative textile designs at the time. They also collaborated with Kyoto Marubeni, one of many wealthy kimono textile merchants in Kyoto, for their Biten exhibitions, which started in 1927. Ueno’s style of textile design was called Kyō-Kaga, as he mixed the features of Kaga (the old name of Ishikawa) yūzen and Kyō (the old name of Kyoto) yūzen textiles.

When World War II ended and the industry revamped, Tameji wondered if his signed, hand-painted textiles could be treated as art pieces rather than only merchandise handled by merchants. He worked with his dyer colleagues in Tokyo and Ishikawa to establish an artisans’ guild to preserve their yūzen skills and to conduct direct business with consumers. In 1954, the Ministry of Education designated Tameji as one of the first five Living National Treasures of yūzen dyeing. However, it did not change the kimono business led by the merchants. After Tameji passed away, the business was taken over by his two sons, then by his grandson and apprentices following Tameji’s attributes.