Chayatsuji (茶屋辻)

Chayatsuji is a pattern for wafuku (Japanese traditional clothes). The Chayatsuji is characterized by its fine pattern which illustrates waterside scenery, and it is fundamentally applied to summer kimono. However, there are also many exceptions in recent years.

Origin of the Name Chayatsuji

The term 'Tsuji' here refers to 'Katabira' (an unlined lightweight hemp summer kimono), and more accurately, it means a 'Katabira in the "chaya" pattern.'
The term 'Chaya' refers to a dye technique called 'Chaya-zome' (Chaya-dyed) invented in the early Edo period (Kanbun era). The pattern was originally dyed only on hemp. However, hemp full dresses themselves are rare nowadays, and the Chaya-zome is mostly done on silk (thin silk, such as silk gauze, including Ro and Sha fabrics in Japanese). Moreover, it is sometimes used even for spring, fall and winter clothes because of its high formality.

The established theory is that it is called 'Chaya' because Shirojiro CHAYA created the dye technique and the design. However, this theory is also discredited because the Chaya family's main business was not a kimono merchant (dry goods store), and chaya-zome was not started when the family prospered.


The kimono design book 'On-hiinakata' published in 1667, which includes the description 'ground color, Chaya-some,' is considered to be the first historical appearance. The Chayatsuji refers to a kimono such that, generally, on the while (or uncommonly, light yellowish orange or pale greenish blue) hemp cloth, the Chayazome design is done in the basic color of indigo, in combination with yellowish orange. In those days a 'dip dyeing' technique was used, but craftsmen in the Genroku era invented a noribosen (resist rice paste is applied by stencil to both sides of the fabric to avoid dyeing prior to dip dyeing) technique. This noribosen enabled kimono designers to portray delicate patterns. One theory has it that the Chayazome technique developed into the invention of Yuzen.

Ironically, the invention of Yuzen caused the indigo-based, simple Chayazome to go out of fashion. After the Kyoho Reforms which were typical of the tendency to admonish against luxury that dominated the order of the day, the simple Chaya-zome had lost the interest of the merchant class but started to please samurai-class ladies. The Hoei and Shotoku eras witnessed a gradual change in the pattern from large and bold to finer and smaller. The Chayatsuji was officially adopted by the dress system of O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants resided). Morisadamanko' (magazines about manners and customs published in the latter half of the Edo period) by Morisada KITAGAWA in 1850, describes the mode as follows.
There are three kinds of summer wear for goten jochu (palace maids) which are Tsuji, Chayatsuji and Sarashinuno (bleached cloth), and they were properly used according to the social position.'
Chayatsuji is Chaya-dyed.'
The design of old (i.e. from the late 17th century to the early 18th century) Chayazome completely differs from that of the present (i.e. in the early 19th century).'
The old Chayazome depicted letters and specific objects, whereas the present Chayatsuji has the (fine) full pattern.'
At that time the 'depiction of water scenery' that features the present-day Chayatsuji was also fixed.

Incidentally, 'Morisadamanko' ranked 'Tsuji' above the Chayatsuji, where the Tsuji (which is also called 'Hontsuji' to be distinguished from 'Chayatsuji') refers to a Katabira which has a colorful full pattern embroidered and Surihitta-dyed (i.e. a stenciled imitation of a shibori technique called hitta in which small square motifs with a small dot of color in the center cover a specific area). Only the ladies of the highest class at the O-oku, including the Midaidokoro (the shogun's wife), Gorenchu (or Gorenju, the shogun's lawful wives), daimyo's (feudal lords') wives and high-ranking oku-jochu (chambermaids) were allowed to wear the Tsuji, and Churo (the middle-grade ladies-in-waiting) or lower class wore the Chayatsuji.
A design that dominated among the Tsuji and Chayatsuji is currently called 'Goshodoki.'

Even after class system collapsed due to the Meiji Restoration, the high-toned formality of the 'Chayatsuji' pattern was accepted by populace. Thereafter, the definition of the term Chayatsuji changed, and it started to refer to the pattern itself rather than the style of kimono. Still today the Chayatsuji is a popular pattern for summer homon-gi (a kimono worn when visiting someone's home or formal parties) and tomesode (a formal black kimono worn by married women) and is dyed mainly on silk product.

[Original Japanese]