Kamedajima and the Town of Kameda
The production of the cotton textiles that would later evolve into Kamedajima fabric is thought to have begun in 1696, during the Edo period. The Kameda area was the northern limit of Japanese cotton, and farmers in local villages began to use the winter months to make cotton fabrics for their own clothing.
The town of Kameda was born on reclaimed land in the Nakayachi-shinden area, which had been chosen as the site for a rokusai market (a market held six times a month). The area had deep waters ill-suited to rice growing but was an important node connecting Niigata’s port with inland regions. The production of cotton textiles would begin here two years later.
The cotton textiles carried to Kameda and sold during the Kansei era (1789 to 1801) are said to be the origin of kamedajima fabric. Later, the farmers making kamedajima took their products to wholesalers, who in turn sold them to brokers or at the rokusai market, and this affiliation between farmers and wholesalers resulted in the development of a cottage industry.
The Golden Age of Kamedajima
The golden age of Kamedajima lasted from the late Meiji period through the Taisho period (1905 – 1926). During this time, the cottage industry shifted toward manual labor factories, and Kameda became a manufacturing region home to over 600 textile manufacturers (including home producers) for a total of 660 producers engaged in weaving, dye work, and other related processes. Organizations for quality improvement and standardization were established, products were sold in Hokkaido and Tohoku, and kamedajima evolved into an industry that supported the modernization of the town of Kameda.
The End of Kamedajima
In the late 1920s, the demand for durable, stain resistant clothes dropped dramatically in agrarian towns, and in 1938 cotton thread became scarce as a result of wartime resource mobilization. The history of kamedajima came to a close.