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Japan Denim Trip: Kojima

So for our third installment from Japan, the Stylesight denim team are reporting from what is arguably the center of Japanese denim; Kojima in Okayama. We have just spent three days in this large town that is dominated by denim companies: head offices, mills, laundries and indigo dyeing houses. If you want to learn about true Japanese denim, this is the place to go. Just a few of the companies based here:

Big JohnMomotaroCollectKuraboKapitalJohn BullKurokiBetty SmithShowa

As well as many, many other fantastic names that the U.S. and European countries may not yet not know but are well worth attention. The town is so dominated by denim that they even have a Jeans Street, home to many local companies’ stores.                         After three days in the area we have only scratched the surface, but we’ll be bringing you a series of in-depth reports from our travels very soon. For now here is our quick round-up from the area:

Big John

If you are going to start at the beginning of the Japanese denim history book, Big John is on page one. The area of Kojima used to be dedicated to School uniform manufacturing and O Saki Ko Taro, president of the company back in the 1940s, decided that the denim industry developing in the U.S was the future. In 1965 Big John manufactured their first denim jean using imported fabric from Canton textile mill in the United States. It was this first jean that began the Japanese denim industry in Kojima. We’ll go into much more detail in our upcoming report about Big John on the denim section of Stylesight, so watch this space!

Japan Blue Group

The Japan Blue Group is at the center of many divisions here in Kojima; Momotaro Jeans and Rampuya are both owned by the group, as is the famed artisanal mill, Collect. We spent the afternoon with some of the team and visited the vast Collect fabric showroom and archive as well as their collection of antique shuttle looms which they still weave with today. We also checked out a natural indigo dying house that hand-dyes cotton for special edition Momotaro jeans.

Stores

While in the area, we visited a few of the key denim stores and attractions. The Betty Smith Museum charts the history of denim and runs a denim sewing school on its premises. Kapital runs their manufacturing studio here and has two fantastic stores to visit. D-Mop is owned by the Domingo group who have Omnigod, DMG, Spellbound and Brocante.

Then we were off to ‘Jeans street’ to see a selection of the local denim brands’ stores:

Momotaro have a big presence in the area with a large store and a local sewing factory, Daina Japan celebrates the symbol of jeans street with a kawaii jean-shaped panda; the mascot of the area. Pure Blue Japan is here as well as many more – we’re going to bring you a guide to shopping in Kojima within the next few weeks.

The journey here is less daunting than it sounds- its approximately three hours on the bullet train from Tokyo to Okayama and then a small local train can take you the 20 minutes to Kojima. Many companies are also based around Okayama city, including Anachronorm (we blogged about them yesterday) and although we couldn’t see everything this time, we’ll be certain to bring you more coverage in the future. Stay tuned for more in-depth reports on Japan Blue Group and Big John, and a shopping guide from Kojima in the near future.

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