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Being unyielding, is the essence of Kogei

Kokura-ori is a special product of the Buzen Kokura clan of the Edo era and it is a high-quality durable cotton fabric featuring vertical stripes. It is Ms. Noriko Tsuiki who restored this Kokura-ori which once ceased.

Ms.Tsuiki who was attracted by the world of Noh encountered the cloth of Kokura-ori which was sleeping in her hometown, Kokura and she restored it. We asked what the attractiveness of Kokura-ori which Ms.Tuiki is incited, and what is the attractiveness of Japanese crafts.

Interview by Yusuke Shibata(HULS)

  • Noriko Tsuiki Textile Artist

    Textile artist of Kokura-ori. She was fascinated by the beauty of the Noh costumes and entered the path of textile. She restored Kokura-ori, which originated from her hometown, and has continued as a textile artist of Kokura-ori.


Q1:What kind of encounter did you have with Kokura-ori?

I did not graduate from an art university and my family business was not related to Kogei, so, my approach was rather different. I like literature since my childhood and when I was a university student, I was attracted by early modern Japanese theater styles and started to learn about Zeami (Noh actor). Subsequently, I started studying weaving as I was fascinated with the stage costume of Noh. At the time, I often visited antique stores, and that was where I found a small swatch of Kokura-ori. It was made of cotton, but had a silk-like luster and it also looked like leather. I recognized this small cloth as Kokura-ori as I am familiar with its texture growing up in Kokura which is my hometown and I wanted to reproduce this fabric that no longer existed.

Before I encountered Kokura-ori, I had woven Kimono with tsumugi-ori (Japanese silk fabric) for about four to five years. The woven color of tsumugi is a mixture of warp and weft. Somehow, at that time, I developed a preference for colors on the warp yarn. After thinking about the color that I wanted to achieve on the warp weave and preparing my warp yarn, the color would change by the effect of the weft. It was while I was thinking about how I could retain the warp color that I encountered the small piece of Kokura-ori. Moreover, the fabric was from the place where I was born and grew up in. That was a happy encounter. Also, the small piece which I encountered for the first time was splendid. After that, I saw various old Kokura-ori and some of them did not fit my sense. This splendid cloth was from children’s hakama, a simple gradation of white and indigo, but the expression was straight, it was a fantastic piece.

Q2:Please tell us how you feel about the “Original landscape of Kokura”.

The “Original landscape of Kokura”, was created while I was designing for “Shima Shima”. I was creating stripes in the image of Kitakyushu in 2018 and I asked myself what the original landscape of Kokura was for me. Here, both the sea and mountains are very close by. The feeling of a vast area and something high to block us might be slightly different from the feeling of people who live in the flat lands. I think “Kogei” is basically developed from the combination of the natural features of a region and the character of people who live there. The character of Kokura of Kitakyushu is, if I can describe in one word, “clumsiness”. However, it is because of this clumsiness and also inflexibility, that the people were able to continue weaving the difficult Kokura-ori for 400 years. Kogei has an unyielding quality, regardless of which genre or region, each and every one of them. The important thing is, which part you will not yield.

Q3:Please tell us about a person or event that had influenced Ms. Tsuiki.

When I was researching about Zeami, I read a book “Kadensho” which was written for Noh performers and it had influenced me strongly. I sympathized with the teaching- “How can I make my flower bloom”. I had read it for the first time at the age of 20, and I still find new awareness every time I read it. It almost feels like Zeami is standing right next me. In this sense, in my mind, Zeami is my teacher.

Q4:What is your commitment as an artisan in the past and now?

The Noh costume had brought me to this path, so, whenever I create something, I always cherish this “extraordinary stage”. Beyond the image that we see, there is an extraordinary world waiting to be admired. Kogei is something that is meant for daily life, and how to bring its beauty into the daily life is fundamental, but I definitely want to capture the “beauty within extraordinary circumstances” by all means. Among Kogei, Kokura-ori is just something we have in our daily life, but as an expression, I am seeking the extraordinary.

Q5:Do you have any cultural experience abroad which had impressed you?

The first thing that comes to mind is Africa. It was 30 years ago when I went to Niger and Mali. When I was young, I watched “Lawrence of Arabia” and in that movie there was a brilliantly shining black turban. When I looked it up, I found that there was a culture of Indigo-dyeing in the Niger River Basin and I wanted to go there. When I went to Africa, I had just revived Kokura-ori. It was a time when I was thinking about reviving things from the past, so the various sceneries of Africa that I had experienced at that time have always stayed in my mind. I had seen the turban that were worn by the Tuareg and was curious about why their turban were shinning. I thought about it while I travelled, and finally at the end of the journey I was able to see the actual turban. It was certainly shining. The indigo dyed fabric shone from the sweat, saltiness and dirt. I still remember it.

Q6:What is the attractiveness of Kokura-ori and stripes which you want to share with people from overseas?

Stripes has existed through the ages and in all places and I think it is fortunate that it is a universal design. If a pattern is remarkable, it will have its own attributes and it will be difficult to be a universal design. Kokura-ori is a stripe. It has the essence of a universal design which can be accepted all over the world. I think this is the big appeal of Kokura-ori. Also, even though stripes are seen all over the world, there are no other stripes that express the vertical warp without showing the weft yarn like Kokura-ori. I think this leads to the appeal of the design, and too the smoothness of the fabric too. Design is universal, but it has a biased quality as a fabric. I think that this is an interesting point.

©Yasuhide Kuge

Q7:Finally, what is “Kogei” to you?

I think the word “Kogei” has many contents. It is different from words like “art” and “craft”. Kogei has great depths and I cannot grasp all of it. The world of Kogei, contains the meaning – “beauty and usage”, which can mean seeking both use and beauty. My feeling is slightly different. When I pursue function, the beauty is accompanying it at all times. I am interested in how this “functional beauty is being born”. I hope that my works will be able to achieve this.

Also, the most important thing in Kogei is “What is that part that you will never yield within yourself”. Japan certainly has this point in all genre of Kogei. When a person thinks that the answer is still far away, and when he pursues it in an upright manner, the thing that he cannot yield will form in his mind. I think that is the essence of Kogei of Japan. Even as time passes by gently, I am certain that I make it. I can have this time and process by myself. This is the real pleasure and I am happy to be in a world where I would create things in this way.



Editorial Team

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