The birthplace of Japanese Jeans – Visit to Jeans Museum in Kojima No. 2


According to Okayama Prefecture’s Tourists division, Kojima’ Jeans will play an important role for the development of future tourism industry of Okayama. In my impression, cowboy blue is the color well representing Japan together with the blue of Seto Inland Sea. “Betty Smith,” a company producing women’s clothes using Kojima’s cowboy cloth established Jeans Museum. It is a good tourist destination where the tourists can have some hand-on experiences. It is open to anyone, neither with any admission fee required nor with any staff stationed. It shows that the tourists are fully trusted. Placid interior with small and detailed ornaments embodies the image of the countryside in the U.S. Once stepping into the museum, you will be surrounded by a variety of Jeans products. You can also see different types of buttons, and their sewing facilities. This is the only place in Japan that produces “Cowboy Wafuku (Japanese-style clothes using cowboy cloth).”
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As explained by Shinsaku Sugiyama in his book titled “Japan Jeans Story,” the key to the international success of Kojima’s Jeans lies in their fabric, dyeing and its production process. The fabric is made from cotton grown in Zimbabwe. And smoothly-applied “damage processing” on the antique-style cowboy cloth realizes its characteristic vertically-faded color on the products. (That is to say, the strings of the fabric in Indigo blue are faded.) Dyeing, except for ordinal Indigo blue color dyeing, is completely practiced by the hands with craftsmanship in order to create typical Japanese blue “Ai”. And rivets, labels or some embroidery on the pockets on the back show the craftsmen’s painstaking efforts as well as their imaginativeness.
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If you are interested in designing Jeans products, just ask staff working in the production room on the ground floor. Given their kind guidance, you can express your ability of imagination to design and create bags using Jeans fabric. You can choose from various rivets, buttons or embroidery for your own product, and fabricate your original bag from your choice of parts for about 3,000 yen. For those who have time limitation, it is also possible to make a simple key ring for 400 yen, just as the writer did. The cloth for the key ring is taken from a belt part of Jeans that were worn to the full extent and acquired special charm and preciousness through its long history of usage. Imagining my finished product, I just couldn’t help smiling all through this making process from the beginning.

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