Tokyo Traditional Art & Craft Designation “Edo Embroidery”
Tokyo Embroidery Cooperative Association
Mr. Tsujiguchi Yoshiyasu
Can you tell me how you are related to Edo Embroidery?
My father had been doing embroidery for kimonos used for Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) for a long time. They always informed us the patterns for kimono about a month before the opening after they decided costumes and acts. To cut our time, we made patterns beforehand and stitched to the kimonos right before the opening. Then we had to deliver kimonos to the theater when audience are lining up for the opening. Our work was that much important. Then a sewing machine hit the streets and the price battle had begun.
During the babble period, we got a lot of orders from kimono shops. Until the end of this period, we just had to respond to their orders.
We have been stitching family crests since my grandfather’s age. The master used to make a design for family crest and a craftsperson did embroidery with that design in the past. There is no more master & craftsperson structure but a craftsperson makes a design and does embroidery in this day and age. There are craftspeople specialized in family crests and there are other craftspeople who do embroidery for other patterns. We have naturally found our area of expertise.
Because of the reduced demand of kimono, the order from the kimono shop has stopped. We show our handiworks at the exhibition only about two or three times a year now. There are not many places and opportunities to sell our works.
I currently do not have any disciples but teach at an embroidery class for the general students. Human beings are marvelous and we make the impossible possible. We become the person to be able to make an amazing embroidery. It would be best to learn when someone is waiting for your embroidery.
You have inherited lineage of traditional edo embroidery.
As you can see an old photo on the wall, this a year-old baby here is me. All the people around me are craftspeople. My grandfather had been training these disciples. Our trade name is “Matsuu” and it has been inherited more than 18th generations. This photo was shoot right before the world war Ⅱhad begun and we had difficulty getting silk lines at that time.
Since I was the oldest son in the family, I was the one to inherit family business. I started my training when I was in the junior high school. Of course, there was a time I did not want to be involved into embroidery but I ended up here. By the way, this flag in the photo is right here. You can still see the shining gold stitch.
What do you excel at in your work?
I try to seek my customers’ mindset and create something makes them happy. Sometimes I get a difficult order and it makes me not to sleep well. But I always make it possible. It is not so important to stitch finely but it is more important to choose the best colors and silk lines based on the patterns.
What kind of laboriousness did you have in the past?
There are many moments made me want to quit and it was painful to see the young craftspeople leaving us.
There used to be more than 100 craftspeople, but it has been decreased to 24. Embroidery is unnecessary and a sewing machine can replace us to produce in large volume with a law price. It was a high status to say “We have an exclusive contract of this kimono shop.” There are just a few craftspeople who maintain this tight relationship between Mitsukoshi Department.
We just had to respond to the orders from Kimono shops and that was how we lived. But the wholesale merchants are closing their businesses now. Craftspeople are left behind and struggling to seek out the way to expand sales since we do not have an experience on marketing.
Our work is not only stitching but also designing which is the most difficult and important part. It sounds obvious to inherit traditional art & craft but it is impossible to live just with embroidery nowadays.
Where do you mainly get a demand?
We even do not know it and wonder around, so we create some prototypes off-the-cuff basis. For example, we have made bags, parasols, scarfs, and place mats. You can even get an embroidery on the collar of a jacket. There is nothing we cannot create. However, you need to be careful for handling because they are not washable. No one has the same thing in the world and yours is the only one original. Our customers understand this value and use our product for a life time. We do not do embroidery because of the trend but for the possibility which we are seeking.
How do you understand the presence of traditional art & craft?
Some people stick to the negative concept of “Because of no demand over kimono, people do not use a belt anymore”. Of course, there is other issue that there are not so many young craftspeople. But more than that, there is a fact that the traditional pyramid structure including a general manager, a master, and a craftsman had disappeared. There are no people above the craftsman, so he has to take over everything.
There is a movement that traditional art & craft should be remained, but we are wondering the meaning of remaining these things. Craftspeople are not motivated by the government’s call like “Please demonstrate your work in this exhibition”. We also hear many words like “Oh, this is beautiful and I feel overwhelmed”. But these words do not lead to anywhere nor anything.
What do you want people in overseas to feel from your work?
I just want to let them know there are these kinds of embroidery and hopefully they will come over to look. We cannot create quantity output, but we create one piece cautiously and with a lot of feelings. The price is worth spending more than for the sewing machine products if you know the true value.
What is the best thing you have earned through continuing doing embroidery for a long time?
As long as working, I feel like I am alive. This is what I put a lot of passion and there is someone who is waiting for my embroidery. I met many people through work, and work for a life time is now also my hobby.
If you want to order your original embroidery or purchase from him, please contact me.infokadona@kadona-