Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


This paper focuses on the Japanese fashion for small patterned designs on textiles during the late Edo (Edo: 1615-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. The trend was influenced by Western textiles produced using technologies developed during the European Industrial Revolution, including roller printing and the Jacquard mechanism. These Western textiles reached Japan through the port of Nagasaki, open to trade with the Dutch and the Chinese between 1634 and 1868. By the end of the Edo period, Japanese weavers and dyers had become familiar with them.

Albums filled with small fragments of European imported cloth were put together and collected by Japanese textile producers, and even feudal lords, and are evidence of the Japanese fascination with imported Western textiles. The Japanese not only admired the exotic Western patterns, but also the precision and accuracy achieved with the new industrial techniques then being developed. One aspect of Western textiles that especially impressed the Japanese was the extremely small patterns or dots that could be achieved with the new printing processes and the Jacquard mechanism.

The small repetitive patterns on European roller prints strongly influenced traditional Japanese stencil resist (katazome) and ikat (kasuri) textiles and new techniques for achieving very small repetitive patterns were developed for both these techniques. Stencil resist textiles with these patterns are known as komon (small pattern).

Jacquard-woven silks also reached Japan prior to the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The introduction of the Jacquard mechanism to Japan in 1873, changed the way the Japanese designed textiles and allowed for even smaller repeat patterns. Graph paper, which arrived with the Jacquard mechanism, also facilitated the design of small-patterned woven silks and kasuri.