Yarn weaves air – vol.2 –

Freely, neutrally, and like airy, Living while welcoming a fresh air - Such an atmosphere flows in Imabari.

Local industry is build up by human beings.
You might think that is obvious, but this point of view is often lost sight, surprisingly, when seeing from outside.

The local history and climate create human beings.
Stand there, and live, and then feeling and thoughts, or society and daily lives, and then all of them are accumulated and crossed, objects are generated for the first time after that.
Furthermore, long time and efforts form such an industry and support the region, and then it grows things that do not exist wherever.

Imabari, Ehime, is well-known as a mecca of the towel. Speaking of the “Imabari towel,” it is a well-known fact that most of us have heard it in Japan. However, how such a towel region comes is generated based on “ideology,” it is genuinely interesting.

Beginning with signing on the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (United States–Japan) in 1858, the feudal society, in the Edo period , started changing to the capitalist society, in the Meiji period. The local industries could only survive if they had reorganized.

Imabari was a cotton fabric region before the Meiji era. “Watagae Method” (Marchants give females such as farmers a weaving machine and about 1,875g of raw cotton(500 momme), and they weave two rolls of white woven cotton, one is given to the weaver as the reward, and other is paid it to merchants as the expense of the raw cotton) are applied to weave, and then large quantities are shipped to Osaka market. In the late Tokugawa Shogunate era, the annual production reaches 300,000 rolls, and it was said that it had a high reputation as “Iyo White cotton.” In the Meiji era, the Watagae hand-weaving of the white cotton has been unable to compete against a rapidly increasing foreign cotton, yarn, and cloths, and inexpensive cotton weaves of a half spun yarn of Kansai region, then the productions have decreased.

What ends up there is “Christianity,” and Sources of Western culture “Christian socialism” brought a significant impact to the region. Christianity was adopted as the new culture with the beginning of a new era.

In particular, it is said that the leading entrepreneurs of Imabari, such as shipping or textile at that time, had faced challenges. The reason is the “Imabari Christian Church” is established as the first church in Shikoku, and Doshisha University founder Joseph Hardy Neesima and Yokoi Tokio started to make a mission there. They lectured not only a religious principle, but also cultural teachings such as Civilization theory, Industrial development, or regional vitalization measure were taught. The lecture grew in popularity immediately, Christians grew explosively.

Shichisaburo Yano, who created “Iyo-Nel(kind of cotton flannel),” was also baptized. In 1886, the manufacture of cotton flannel(raised fabric of cotton cloth) was started and expanded the productions over the years.
To bleach and dye before the weaving process makes the pattern when weaving, and “Iyo-Nel,” which has raised fabric on one side, became gradually notable popular as a purpose of linens such sheets and pillowcases, as it expanded the overseas market. At the end of Taisyo era, the Imabari region has grown to be the largest producing area in Japanese domestic.

Also, Tsunesaburou Fumoto, who got baptized, devised Fumoto’s original weaving machine with double lanes that can weave two towels at the same time. A weaving machine, called Fumoto Nicho-Battan, was a breakthrough technological innovation that could fulfill more than doubled production efficiency. It is re-designed a weaving machine for lightweight and flat fabrics or shirtings (able to weave 36 cm wide, 108 cm long), it was easy to re-design from the machine for flat fabrics to the towel weaving machine. Thus, the industry trend started changing from the cotton fabric to the towel.

Freely, neutrally, and like airy,
Living while welcoming a fresh air –
Such an atmosphere flows in Imabari.

While repeating tradition and innovation,
Those who open a path create this region.

Ehime history of ChorographyⅡ / “Chapter1 -Towel bito – Development of local industry in the Meiji period and Christianity”
by Chisako Tsuji from Faculty of Management, Josai University
  • PhotosYoshiyuki Mori
  • WordsAtsuko Ogawa
  • DesignNoriaki Hosaka
  • Translation Mina Ishikawa