May 30, 2019 | By Louise Squire
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Jeans aficionados visiting Japan’s denim heartland, Kojima, can now take a bus tour that details how the town has raised denim production to a fine art, while delivering them to shops and factories from some of the country’s foremost denim makers. An initiative from major transport operator Japan Rail, the Kojima Jeans Bus is decked out museum style with artifacts that are inspirational even if one can’t read the accompanying (Japanese-only) explanations. Naturally, the seats on this fully customized bus are covered in premium indigo, as are the curtains and even the hand straps.
A port town in Okayama, Western Japan, Kojima was historically a fabric industry hub with denim in its genes: the first pair of domestic jeans was made there in the mid-1960s. The trend towards outsourced production saw it come perilously close to ruin in the late ‘80s, but this fortuitously coincided with the emergence of Japanese brands aiming to produce jeans to standards unseen since the heyday of domestic U.S. manufacture, and eager to make use of the town’s textile expertise.
Kojima has since become the heart of artisanal denim production in Japan, and a Mecca for denimheads keen to visit the home of such revered brands as Kapital, Spellbound and Big John, as well as indigo dyeing factories Rampuya (home of Momotaro Jeans) and Takashiro Senko. Responding to visitor comments that the town lacked stores at which to purchase its coveted wares, local labels banded together to establish a ‘Jeans Street,’ hosting boutiques from Momotaro, Pure Blue Japan, Dania and other lesser-known but equally high quality brands.
The Jeans Bus’ route takes in Jeans Street and the aforementioned factories as well as a Jeans Museum operated by women’s denim label Betty Smith, but if this sounds too touristy, rest assured: the bus also carries plenty of local grandmothers out on their grocery rounds. And besides, any committed denim fanatic will tell you that this is a pilgrimage more than a tourist attraction! -Darren Gore
The Kojima Jeans Bus runs Fri, Sat, Sun and on public holidays, departing from JR Kojima station (Bus Stop No. 5) at 9:40, 10:30, 11:30, 12:50, 14:50 and 15:50. The Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo will get you to Okayama station in around three-and-a-half hours, from there a local train to Kojima takes about 20 minutes.
More on Kojima’s denim scene here.
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