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2022.02 Monozukuri: Exploring Japan’s Heritage and Creativity Through the Art of Making Things [PR] Discover Banshu-ori textiles in Nishiwaki and crafted bags in Toyooka

Two cities in Hyogo Prefecture are attracting attention around the world for producing high quality, fashionable products, and for their approach to SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Nishiwaki City in central Hyogo is known for Banshu-ori textiles, and Toyooka, in northern Hyogo, is renowned for its bags and accessories. Both cities are centers of “monozukuri,” an artisanal approach to manufacturing, with a focus on technical innovation, creativity, and quality. Explore the ateliers and workshops of Nishiwaki and Toyooka and enjoy the local cuisine and natural environment as you dive deeper into Japan’s craft heritage. 


Nishiwaki, a textile city in the center of Japan


Nishiwaki City is located at Japan’s geographical center, at the intersection of the 135°East meridian and the 35°North parallel. It is also the birthplace of celebrated Pop artist and graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo (1936–), who has collaborated with fashion brands Issey Miyake and Gucci. A visit to the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art (in Nada Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) offers a good overview of his colorful creations, before going to the Nishiwaki Okanoyama Museum of Art, which also houses some of his works.


For centuries, the Kita-Harima region, centering on Nishiwaki City, has produced high quality, yarn-dyed Banshu-ori textiles. The region has an abundance of water, which is essential for textile dyeing, leading to the development of the weaving industry. The most distinctive feature of Banshu-ori (or Banshu weave), is that it the yarn is dyed before it is woven, allowing for finely detailed patterns that are resistant to fading. The region boasts Japan’s largest production volume of yarn-dyed textiles in Japan, accounting for more than 70% of national production.


Nihon Heso Koen (Japan’s Navel Park) in Nishiwaki located at Japan’s geographical center.


The Nishiwaki Okanoyama Museum of Art, situated within Nihon Heso Koen (Japan’s Navel Park), displays the work of contemporary artisits including Tadanori Yokoo.


Banshu-ori fabric is highly regarded overseas for its quality, and has been used by international brands.


Explore the heritage of Banshu-ori textiles 


In the city center, Banshu-ori Koubou-kan (Banshu Weaving Workshop Museum), is a cross between a workshop and a retail store, housed in a former Banshu-ori textile factory. Visitors can learn about the history and manufacturing process of Banshu-ori, and buy limited products such as shirts, jeans, scarves and bags, including eco bags made from Banshu canvas. The facility is free to enter, and retains some original features including a saw-tooth roof that allows soft light to enter and illuminate the fabric.


Tamaki niime Shop & Lab also uses Banshu-ori techniques, creating unique garments and accessories. Visit the shop to buy colorful one-of-a-kind pieces. While there, visitors can take a tour of the “lab,” to see how different processes such as dyeing, weaving, knitting, washing, and sewing are carried out. Tamaki niime is committed to promoting self-sufficiency and recycling. They grow their own organic cotton in the community, and grow their own pesticide-free rice and vegetables for use in the staff canteen.


At Roadside Station Kita-Harima Ecomuseum in Nishiwaki City, you can take a break from exploring to enjoy local dishes such as Kurodasho Wagyu beef, Banshu Hyakunichi Chicken, and seasonal local vegetables. You can also get pamphlets about local attractions and buy local produce and souvenirs, including Banshu-ori fabrics.


At the Banshu-ori Koubou-kan (Banshu Weaving Workshop Museum), visitors can see the production process. Demonstrations of a large-sized weaving machine are held.


There are regular craft fairs at the Banshu-ori Koubou-kan (Banshu Weaving Workshop Museum).



The Nishiwaki Roast Beef Burger is one of the specialties of the Roadside Station Kita-Harima Ecomuseum.





Tamaki niime's Shop & Lab features a contemporary take on Banshu-ori textiles that embodies a new approach to monozukuri.


Toyooka Kaban: a bag industry nurtured in the town of storks


Toyooka City, located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, is famous for Kinosaki Onsen, a hot spring town dating back to the eighth century. Kinosaki is home to the Kinosaki Straw Craft Museum and the Kinosaki International Arts Center, and is attracting attention for craftwork and creativity. Toyooka is also known as the town of storks, and you can experience local efforts to nurture these elegant birds, and the coexistence of nature and culture.


Kinosaki Straw Craft Museum


Kinosaki International Arts Center (© Nishiyama Madoka)


Toyooka is one of the four major bag production areas in Japan. According to one theory, the beginning of bag manufacture in Toyooka dates back to the Tajima no Kunisan Yanagibako (Tajima domestic willow boxes) made in the area during the Nara period (710–794). Wickerwork, which gave rise to portable items including bags, is said to have a long history in the area. According to legend, the craft was introduced by the deity Amenohiboko, who began weaving baskets from Rubikins willow (Salix koriyanagi) trees growing along the Maruyama River in Toyooka. Only the highest quality locally made bags are called Toyooka kaban (Toyooka bags).


Sustainable development and a culture of monozukuri


There are more than 180 bag-related companies in Toyooka City, including factories, retailers, and repair services, which embody the spirit of craft and sustainability. Visit Caban Street (bag street), a cooperative effort between the shopping district and the bag industry. Stores along the street sell high quality bags and accessories made in Toyooka, and offer repair and cleaning services to foster a culture of sustainable fashion.


For a unique souvenir, you can buy a special tote bag from a vending machine on Caban Street.


Toyooka Kaban Artisan Avenue is Toyooka Kaban’s flagship store, where you can purchase a variety of bags made by local manufacturers. Toyooka Kaban follows the philosophy of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through business activities and social contribution, such as making bags with fabrics from used fishing nets to reduce marine debris and recycle resources. Toyooka’s artisans embody the spirit of “monozukuri,” creating quality products with minimal waste, which is also in line with international SDGs, including “Affordable and Clean Energy” and “Responsible Consumption and Production.”


In the same building, Toyooka KABAN Artisan School draws students from all over Japan to study the craft of making bags.


Toyooka KABAN Artisan Avenue, carries a range of bags by local artisans, created with ingenuity and devotion.


Toyooka KABAN Artisan School


Getting to Nishiwaki and Toyooka


Both Nishiwaki and Toyooka are accessible from Osaka or Kobe. From Osaka to Nishiwaki City, take the Sanyo Line Special Rapid Service train from JR Shin-Osaka Station to JR Kakogawa Station (approximately 1 hour), then take the Kakogawa Line to Nishiwakishi Station (approximately 50 minutes). To reach Toyooka City, take the Kounotori Limited Express train from JR Osaka Station to Toyooka Station (approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes). From Kobe, it takes about 2 hours and 20-35 minutes from JR Sannomiya Station by limited express train, and about 3 hours by express bus.


From Shin-Kobe Station, there is an express bus service to Nishiwakishi Station (approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes), or 2 hours and 30 minutes to Toyooka Station. Options for getting around Nishiwaki and Toyooka include bike rental, taxi, bus, and walking.


Related Links


Another Hyogo


Hyogo Tourism


Hyogo: The Heart of Japan


hyogonavi_official (Japanese)


tamaki niime


Kita-Harima Ecomuseum


Kinosaki International Arts Center


Toyooka Kaban Artisan Avenue (Japanese)


Toyooka Kaban Artisan School (Japanese)


Toyooka Kaban (Japanese)


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