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Snow Refinement of Echigo Jofu

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Snow Refinement of Echigo Jofu


A sustainable approach to bleaching born from the climate and wisdom of a Snow Country

Minamiuonuma city


A traditional hemp textile woven in Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture, the 1,200 years old Echigo Jofu is a truly work of art unique to this region of heavy snowfall. Renowned for its breathability and pleasant, light feel, this sophisticated fabric is considered the finest quality hemp fabric for summer kimonos. Echigo Jofu is meticulously handmade using techniques passed down for generations and was Japan’s first ever textile to be registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009.

On particularly sunny days between mid-February and March, the fabric woven during the winter months is spread out upon level snow, to undergo a refinement process known as “yuki-zarashi.” When the snow vaporizes in the sun it releases ozone, which sterilizes and bleaches the fibers as it passes through the grain of the fabric. The beautifully finished Echigo Jofu is then made into kimonos and delivered into the hands of customers.



Echigo Jofu textiles will sometimes return to this region for removal of stains that have soaked into the fabric after being worn for many years. The stains mysteriously fall away through snow bleaching, and the clean kimono is then returned to its owner. Thanks to this sustainable approach born from the wisdom of past ancestors, the kimono can be worn for generations.



Echigo Jofu is now a rare textile, and tours are generally not offered. Nonetheless, as a cultural learning opportunity, visitors may observe the process of snow bleaching on sunny days between the end of February and March. Advance inquiry is required.




How to get there


From Echigo Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen, take the JR Joetsu Line or Hokuhoku Line and get off at Shiozawa Station (about 15 minutes).


Nakadaya Orimono: 95 Shiozawa, Minamiuonuma-shi, Niigata-ken
(Please inquire for dates and venues)



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