Kogin Zashi

Example of modern kogin zashi, Japan. Example of modern kogin zashi, Japan.

Kogin zashi is a form of darned embroidery from Japan. Kogin literally means ‘small cloth’ and zashi means ‘stitches.’ Kogin zashi, or more generally and simply called kogin, is often classed as one of the sashiko forms, and was developed by the farmers of the Tsugaru district in the northern part of the Honshu Island, Japan.

There are three areas in the Tsugaru district, which have different arrangements of kogin zashi patterns: nishi kogin from the western side of the Iwaki River; higashi kogin from the eastern side of the Iwaki River and mishima kogin from around the river delta. The designs used are geometric patterns of varying degrees of complexity, depending on the villages and the stitchers’ skills. The patterns were sometimes exchanged by inter-village marriages.

Traditionally this type of embroidery is worked on coarse hemp (Cannabis sativa), which was later replaced by ramie (Boehmeria nivea var. Nipononivea). Typically the ground material was ten warps and seven-eight wefts per one square cm. The patterns were worked using white ramie threads. After the late eighteenth century white cotton threads were used, as cotton became available in the region through trade. Kogin zashi declined in popularity when softer and stronger cotton cloth became widely available, especially when in 1894 a railway was constructed between Tokyo and Hirosaki, the central city in the Tsugaru district. By the early twentieth century kogin zashi had become almost extinct.

But in 1932, Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the Mingei movement (Japanese folk craft movement), highlighted the importance of kogin zashi, and local people started to research and revive the technique. After the Second World War (1939-1945), local schools introduced kogin zashi into their art classes or domestic science to preserve their tradition.

In 1983 many of remaining kogin zashi clothes were designated as important tangible folk-cultural properties of Japan. In 1962, the Hirosaki Kogin institute, Co., Ltd. was established to revive kogin zashi with new designs and products appealing to a wide audience and to promote local businesses. Some craft companies also started to produce kogin zashi kits for hobby craft makers. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, new uses for kogin zashi were being found, including decorating modern clothes, buttons, bags, accessories, interior furnishings such as curtains, cushions, etc., and kogin zashi became fashionable among various urban groups.

See also kogin zashi technique


  • HIROSAKI KOGIN INSTITUTE, Co., Ltd (2013). Tsugaru Kogin – Zashi, Technique and Patterns, Tokyo, Seibundo Shinkosha.
  • KIYOKO, Ogikubo (1993). Kogin and Sashiko Stitch, Kyoto, Kyoto Shoin.
  • KITAHARA, Kanako and Hannah Joy SAWADA (2008). An Introduction to Tsugaru Studies, Hirosaki: Hirosaki University Press (in Japanese and English).
  • KITAHARA, Kanako and Hannah Joy SAWADA (2012). Tsugaru Indigo, Hirosaki: Hirosaki University Press.
  • TANAKA, Chuaburo (2009). Michinoku no Kofu no Sekai (The world of old textiles in northern part of Honshu Island, Japan), TOKYO, Kawaide Shobo Shinsya.
  • YOKOSHIMA, Naomichi (1974). Tsugaru Kogin, Tokyo, NHK Press.
  • https://tohoku-standard.jp/en/standard/aomori/koginzashi/

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 5 July 2016).


Last modified on Saturday, 01 October 2016 16:50