Of the shiboku (four precious plants), lacquer tree, tea, paper mulberry and silk, silk is very important to the people of Japan for its many uses, and its beauty. Silk probably came from China in the third century, but was not in common use until the Tokugawa Era (1600 – 1867).


It is, and has been, used for many things, some that may surprise you. Armor, for instance! All the fiber in armor for the lords was silk. Hats and shoes used silk, and still do. The sword handle uses silk ribbon to bind it together and give a good grip. The obi (sash) uses silk for its lovely designs and colors. Women’s handbags and purses are made of silk too.


Most important of all, however, is the kimono. This lovely garment is the one thing that means “Japan” to all the people in the world. The kimono design and beautiful patterns are often envied by foreign visitors. One reason is that foreign people can’t wear kimono well. It seems only suitable to the Japanese form and character. Dignity and grace are necessary to wear the kimono.

しかし、最も重要な絹製品は着物です。この美しい衣装は、世界中で日本の代名詞として知られているものの一つです。 着物のデザインと模様の美しさは、外国人にとってしばしば羨望の的となります。外国人には着物が似合わないことがその理由の一つとして挙げられます。着物は、日本人の体型と民族性にしか合わないように思われます。着物を着るには、威厳と気品が必要なのです。

The main material for kimono was silk for people with money and taste. Other people of the low classes wore, asa (hemp), like linen, or even paper. Those materials are too expensive now. Paper clothes (kamiko) were worn for comfort and beauty. They didn’t last long, but were lovely things to wear.


Silk is taken from silkworms, which have been fed on silk mulberry leaves. After eating all they can, they make a cocoon. This looks like a small bird’s egg about three or four centimeters in diameter. The cocoons are then collected and put into very hot water to melt the starch which helps the cocoon hold its shape. Then a few of the very fine strands are taken, and wound around a spindle to make a silk thread. This thread is treated and woven into material for the kimono. Many exquisite designs are woven and created for the people lucky enough to have such a gorgeous garment, made of magnificent, colorful silk !


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