Shinshu is the old name for Nagano prefecture, where is famous for magnificent nature, the Japan Alps. The features of Shinshu Tsumugi depends on this.
It is said that silk pongee called “Ashiginu” had been already produced in Shinshu area in Nara period (710-784). and presented as tribute or used as currency. Since plenty of natural plants for dyeing were (and are) seen in this area, dyeing technique was also developed in addition to weaving.
The production of Shinshu Tsumugi became larger in the beginning of Edo period (1603-1867), when domain leaders of this area encouraged pongee production and sericulture. During Edo period, Shinshu Tsumugi was one of the most important articles of export to Kyoto city.
After the shogunate system ended, the demand for the kimono fabric decreased and only small amount of Shinshu Tsumugi was produced to reserve the tradition. After the World War II, people started to revive this special conventional industry and now, Shinshu Tsumugi is known as one of high-grade kimono clothes.
The production method does not differ from other tsumugi fabrics, but the artisans use silk under strict rules; the warp should be raw silk, Tensanshi (silk from Japanese oak silkmoth), Tamaito (a cocoon with two pupas), or hand-spin floss, and the weft should be Tamaito or hand-spin floss.
Tensanshi is produced from cocoons of Japanese oak silkmoth (Yamamayu ga) and the color is green like young leaves. This type of silk is used only for Shinshu Tsumugi.
Shinshu Tsumugi was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.