What is Koginzashi?

◆What is Koginzashi?
Kogin-zashi is a type of sashiko with distinctive geometric patterns created by farming women in the Tsugaru region of Aomori Prefecture during the Edo period. Even in the harsh winter, only linen cloth was allowed to be worn. In such an environment, we have overcome the harsh winters by filling the eyes of the linen cloth with thread to strengthen it and increase heat retention. The method of advancing the needle horizontally and inserting the needle one step at a time prevents missed punctures and is very reasonable for practical purposes such as reinforcement and protection against the cold. The purpose of the embroidery was the geometric pattern called modoko that we enjoy today.
When farm girls were five or six years old, their mothers gave them needles and thread, and they learned to make simple and gradually more complex patterns, and when they got married, they brought three to six kogin-zashi kimonos with them. The girls gathered around with their kogins and had fun stabbing them to create more attractive designs.


◆Types of Kogin-zashi
Koginzashi has developed in three regions with different characteristics, with the Iwaki River as the border. It can be seen that the pattern of the land has a great influence on the pattern.

[Higashi Kogin] Kogin area, a granary area on the east side of Hirosaki City: Kuroishi City, former Minami Tsugaru District Hiraga Town (current Hirakawa City), former Minami Tsugaru District Onoe Town (current Hirakawa City), Hirosaki City Ishikawa District

Characteristics: Many are embroidered on coarse cloth woven with thick linen thread.The patterns do not have stripes and often have the same pattern from the front to the back, and the overall pattern is bold and large.
*The above photo is a work made in imitation of Higashi Kogin.

[Nishikogin] Kogin in the mountains on the west side of Hirosaki City
Area: Nakatsugaru District, Nishimeya Village, Former Iwaki Town (currently Hirosaki City), Former Soma Village (currently Hirosaki City), Funazawa District, Hirosaki City, Ozawa District, Hirosaki City

Features: Made of fine cloth woven with thin Karamushi hemp threads, the pattern is intricate. It is called ``Shimikogin'' because of the stripes on the shoulders that are stitched alternately with black and white threads. The back of the body has an ``upside down'' pattern that is said to protect against pit vipers.

[Mishima Kogin] Kogin downstream of Mt. Iwaki
Area: Former Kanagi Town (currently Goshogawara City), Former Kurumamura (currently Tsugaru City), Former Wooden Village (currently Tsugaru City)
Features: Three bright, thick stripes on the front and back of the body.It is thought that due to repeated cold damage and poor harvests, people could not afford to make koginzashi, and the ones that exist are extremely valuable.

◆How to read Koginzashi (personal opinion)
I believe that kogin-zashi can be read either as ``kogin-sashi'' or ``kogin-zashi.'' I call it "Koginsashi" because of the sound I've heard, but many people also call it "Koginsashi." “Even within our generation, there are differences in the Tsugaru dialect, and I think of the dakuten as a subtle difference.
*As of April 2022, the explanation part of the Kogin-zashi on the wall inside the ticket gate at Hirosaki Station says "Koginsashi", and at the Kogin Festival, furigana was waved as "Koginsashi". .

The following references are very interesting books that can be used as photo books or reading material. please.
⚪︎Tadazaburo Tanaka. The world of old cloth in Michinoku. Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2009. (ISBN978-4-309-76131-2)
⚪︎Supervised by Hirosaki Kogin Research Institute. The definitive Tsugaru Koginzashi technique and design collection that includes basic knowledge, basic and applied techniques, and Modoco designs. Seibundo Shinkosha, 2013. (ISBN978-4-416-61390-0)