In Ojiya area, in Niigata prefecture, it is said that hempen cloth was already made in late Jomon period (BC16,500-BC3,000) because some earthen vessels excavated from archaeological sites have marks of this fabric.
Probably, the climate there, cold but humid winter, is very suited for growing hemps. And therefore, it was natural that technique to weave linen clothes was developed.
About 1200 years ago, in Heian period (794-1185), the origin of Ojiya Chijimi was born as Echigo Jofu. They are plane linen clothes, using special type of hemp, “Choma”. The quality originated in this special hemp, easily absorb moisture and evaporate it easily, too, has been loved by many people since it was born, and was designated as UNESCO intangible cultural asset together with Ojiya Chijimi.
Chijimi technique is the one which can make ruggedness, called “Shibo”, on the cloth by twisting threads when weaving and loosen the twists by exposing the cloth to snow for absorption of moisture. This technique was discovered about 340 years ago, when a weaver named Hori Jiro Masatoshi, aka. Akashi Jiro, moved to Ojiya from Akashi area, in Hyogo. He brought the technique of Akashi Chijimi into Echigo Jofu and made a big innovation.
After Ojiya Chijimi was created by Akashi Jiro, it became to be known as a very high quality clothes for summer all over Japan.
“Shibo”, the most distinguished character of Ojiya Chijimi, was preferred to Samurais and wealthy people, even presented to Shogun family.
In addition to the quality, since Ojiya was placed at a good place for transportation, the production was thriving until it was banned as “too luxury” during the World War II.
Currently, Ojiya Chijimi is known as a very traditional summer clothes produced by conventional technique and materials. Ojiya Chijimi was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.