A texture woven through the century
Crafted with pride in Tohoku

Wakayanagi Woven Fabric

A modern craftsmen weaves traditional Wakayanagi Jiori textiles

Wakayanagi Woven Fabric

In Japan, bonds that connect people are likened to threads. Ancient lore holds that once a person discovers the thread of their destiny, they will achieve their greatest happiness. The Tohoku region is home to one such story of destiny—a story of a craftsman, a machine, and the threads that defined his destiny.

The Chibako Textile Factory is a living time capsule at the heart of Miyagi Prefecture’s Kurihara City, a former mining town. The distinctive rhythmic clacking of antique weaving machinery reverberates through the air, echoes of an earlier world. Manufactured over a century ago, the classic looms were invented by a man named Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the now world-famous Toyota Group. Known today for its automobiles, the company began life as the Toyoda Textile Company and today, the Chibako Textile Factory is home to some of only a few remaining Toyota narrow fabric looms. The factory’s iron “Y-Type” looms have been meticulously preserved and continue to create beautiful textiles known as Wakayanagi Jiori.

The soft and supple texture of the Wakayanagi Jiori fabric is renown throughout the former silk-producing capital of the Wakayanagi region, earning the textile accreditation as one of Miyagi’s traditional crafts. The third-generation owner of the Chibako Textile Factory, Takayori Chiba, carries on this tradition of fine artistry. The factory originally operated with 23 Y-Type looms installed in 1915. While many were damaged beyond repair in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Chiba managed to restore 6 with support from members of the community.

Chiba’s work is measured and scrupulous. He keeps a keen eye on the looms, the weave of the threads, and examines each piece of fabric by hand. “Every loom has its own personality,” he says. “By harnessing the traits of each loom, one can create fabric with quality, stripes and texture unique to that one loom.”

On the 150th anniversary of the birth of looms’ inventor, grandson Shoichiro Toyoda, Honorary Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, visited the Chibako factory to see the old Y-Type looms with his own eyes. As if connected by a thread of destiny, Chiba’s Y-Type looms represent the spiritual roots of the Toyota Group. In recent years, the factory has welcomed young engineers eager to learn about the traditional Wakayanagi Jiori fabric and the legacy of the machines that create it.

In his workshop, Chiba gazes upon the old looms with a smile. “Thanks to these machines, I’ve been getting more visitors and meeting new people. The factory has even piqued the interest of international visitors. Needless to say, I am very happy.” In addition to producing beautiful decorative items, the factory also creates everyday items such as business card cases and small containers.

For the people of Tohoku, Wakayanagi Jiori represents a century of devoted, precise, and passionate craftsmanship. With a simple touch, one can feel the fabric’s history woven into each and every thread.

Vintage machines produce softer fabrics than their modern counterparts