- English (United States)
While the peak of producing futons and blankets in the textile industry appears to have passed, a top grade manufacturer remains in Izumiotsu. We went to the Takiyoshi factory to get a glimpse into the heart and soul of the blanket making process.
90% of the blankets made in Japan are made in Izumiotsu
The first blankets were produced in Izumiotsu around the beginning of the Meiji era (1868), and the majority of Japan used them, but lately there has been an influx of less expensive, imported blankets. The blanket makers of Izumiotsu have taken this as a challenge to produce even better goods, but many companies have gone out of business because they couldn’t compete with foreign prices.
From cotton to silk
Around 10 years ago, members of Takiyoshi went to China to teach their blanket manufacturing techniques. As of result of this, the amount of blankets produced in China drastically increased, the prices dropped, and Japan’s market share decreased further. Regardless of these events, the superior quality of the blankets in Japan remained unmatched.
The president of Takiyoshi, Kazuo Takiya, grew weary of trying to compete the low price battle in the market and decided to focus solely on making the highest quality blankets using only the highest quality fibers. They turned common business principles upside down and went from using cotton to silk.
They began to search for and order the highest quality silk fibers and threads available. The basic order of the silk blanket production process is as follow: weaving, dyeing, combing, shearing, ironing, and sewing.
The touch of feel of silk is it’s most important quality. Takiyoshi discovered a technique to increase the density and softness of the silk by rumble drying the fabric in a way that hasn’t been duplicated by any other company. The texture is phenomenal.
Because of this technique, the blankets are lighter, softer, warmer, and smoother; the best possible blanket. The greatness of this fabric has been recognized by Chanel, and they have since purchased the silk to use in their own products. A Takiyoshi silk blanket was also presented to crown princess Masako, and this is another testament to it’s superior quality.
Looking towards the future
The managing director, Yoshinori Takiya, said that factory direct sales were increasing as a result of the internet and that a larger market could be reached this way; but they have also shown their products in European trade shows and expos and have received outstanding responses. He wants to preserve and offer the high quality blankets and also continue to have face to face interaction with his customers and clients. He feels that this is necessary for the future.
By producing superior products, we can increase our consciousness and development, and these wonderful silk blankets are a reminder of that.