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"Kiryu and Sukajan" ~A story of searching for the roots of vintage sukajan~

"Kiryu and Sukajan" ~A story of searching for the roots of vintage sukajan~


Sukajan made in Kiryu in 1945


 I have met.

Winter 2017.

A dead stock sukajan that is proof that it was made in Kiryu.

I knew that vintage sukajans were made in Kiryu right after the end of the war.

This is a well-known story in the apparel industry and among Sukajan enthusiasts.

However, most people in modern Kiryu do not know this.

Because it boasted a reputation as a textile production area, the history of silk and human silk fabrics remains in documents,

There are almost no descriptions of sewing, embroidery, ribs or zippers.

The question of whether it had actually been made was always on my mind.

This encounter changed my belief.

The name of an embroidery shop I knew came up.

That embroidery shop no longer exists. However, it was definitely a moment when I felt the breath that was there. 

Since then, I have been reading up on materials related to textile unions.

We are researching businesses that handle textiles, sewing, embroidery, ribs, and zippers from the time.

The more I looked into it, the more I realized that I didn't know much about the history of the textile industry that flourished in Kiryu and the history of the war.

He begins to think that he cannot get to the bottom of the secret behind the birth of Sukajan.

An enterprising spirit that boldly jumps into new things without hesitation.

Pipe with central government agencies and GHQ,

Through trade, it became famous around the world as a silk textile production area.


A scene from the 1945 Kiryu Gion Festival. Occupation Forces jeeps are shown

From “100 Years of Kiryu, Isesaki, and Greenery (Kyoto Publishing)”


 History is connected to modern times.

There is a history that even people who don't know about Sukajan should know about.

That's why I'm steadily writing about "Kiryu and Sukajan."

It was natural that modern Kiryu people did not know that sukajan was born in this area.

The people of Kiryu at that time were fighting for the sake of the enemy they had been fighting under the slogan of the brutal United States and Britain until recently.

We have created a gorgeous souvenir jacket that combines the best of all techniques.

In order to survive, I never thought about leaving my name for posterity.

In a short period of time, he produced a large number of sukajan clothing, which was born in Japan and had no designer.

The history created by the craftsmen themselves will gradually be forgotten with the end of GHQ's occupation policy.

The craftsmen themselves also rode the wave of the period of high economic growth and eventually forgot about sukajan.

Although it was not kept as a record, it remained strongly in people's memories.

The fact that there is no documentation of it has led to it becoming a legend.

Being able to create your own stories using people's imaginations

This is probably one of the charms of Sukajan.

As a vintage sukajan fan, I researched solid evidence,

I would like to leave this as a record for future generations.

~The night before the birth of Sukajan~

Occupation Army soldiers. Near Honmachi 6-chome

(From “Memories Album Kiryu”)


August 15, 1945. Defeat in the Pacific War.

Coincidentally, this defeat led to the birth of the ``Sukajan'' (souvenir jacket).

So-called vintage sukajans, which are still sold at high prices among collectors,

It was produced in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture, a textile production area that dates back to the Nara period (1,300 years ago).

As early as September 13, the month after the Gyokuon broadcast, American soldiers from the Occupation Forces visited Kiryu.

One of the purposes of this trip was to purchase textiles and textile products as souvenirs back home.

During the war, there were no major air raids in Kiryu, so some factory equipment remained.

Large-scale textile factories were converted into munitions factories, and iron power looms were provided, but

The 5,601 remaining looms were used to produce items such as silk, parachute fabrics made from silk and silk, and linings for national defense uniforms.

It was produced according to specifications, and at the end of the war, a considerable amount of stock was secretly stored in a warehouse within the factory.


The former Japan Silk Co., Ltd. office building where the Occupation Forces were stationed (currently the Silk Co., Ltd. Memorial Hall)


October 5th. The 97th Division of the U.S. Army, which was stationed at the former Kumagaya Flight School, had 33 soldiers.

They were sent to Kiryu and stationed at the former Nippon Kinuen Co., Ltd. office building (currently the Kinuen Memorial Hall).

By the way, on October 10th, 2,000 people went to the former Maebashi Army Reserve Military Academy (Shinto Village).

1,000 people were stationed at the Nakajima Airplane Factory in Ota, which later became the military administration headquarters.

The following day, the 11th, 200 American soldiers were stationed at the former Tobu No. 38 Unit barracks in Takasaki.

The reason why they moved to Kiryu earlier than Gunma Prefecture is gradually becoming clearer.

In Kiryu, around 1935, before the war, the cutting-edge material of the time, human silk (rayon), was

It ranks first in production value and ranks third in Japan's exports.

Kiryu was booming, and there were many cafes and restaurants.

During and after the war, the restaurant industry was forced to close down.

Meanwhile, a social gathering with U.S. military officers was held at a Japanese restaurant that had been around since before the war.

Many citizens brought their own clothes and accessories and bartered them for food in rural villages.

Kiryu Station is crowded every day with shopping units carrying rucksacks and wrapping cloths.

Open-air stalls lined Suehirocho-dori and Honmachi-dori, and a black market was formed.

At first, the citizens who watched the American soldiers in fear,

Seeing how friendly and wealthy they are,

Eventually, using my broken English, I started selling Japanese dolls, Hina dolls, fans, textiles, etc.

They warmed up to each other, exchanging things like cigarettes and chocolate.


Occupation Army soldiers directing traffic at Nishikicho Rotary

(From “Memories Album Kiryu”)


The social gathering between U.S. military officers and Kiryu's leading purchasers was a meaningful one.

It is a combination of Kiryu's horizontal embroidery technique and the wartime clothing customization culture of American soldiers.

It was our first real encounter.

During the inspection on September 13th, the officer discovered the value of Kiryu's manufacturing technology.

I came up with the idea of ​​customizing a jacket I already own as a souvenir of being stationed there.

The purchasers commissioned people who had sewing and embroidery skills.

Among them were many war widows. He was supported by such people.

"Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east."

Kiryu's craftsmen have an enterprising spirit.

Compared to Kyoto, which boasts a tradition as a capital, Kiryu is more open and less exclusive.

Although he has a rough side, he is said to have a beloved citizenship.

We are working on exports as early as possible, mainly through our union, and researching cutting-edge materials.

It has evolved with changes over time.

Being able to make things was a great help to the citizens of Kiryu after the war.

War is a political decision. Defeat drove the people into a corner and hurt them.

But that's why Sukajan was born.

73 years later, the original Skajan still remains. He once went to America with a soldier,

In the 1980s, Japanese buyers and collectors brought Skajan back to Japan.

Its birth was in Kiryu, a small regional city 100 kilometers away from Tokyo.

It began with an encounter between a U.S. military officer and a purchasing agent.

~Rayon Satin~

Kiryu textile factory in the early Showa era

From “100 Years of Kiryu, Isesaki, and Greenery (Kyoto Publishing)”



At the end of the war, rayon was called human silk. Even now, from people who knew those days.

As I listen to their stories, I sometimes hear them saying, ``Jinken, jinken.''

As the name suggests, it is made of the highest quality material, smooth like silk, and beautiful with a glossy feel.


At that time, there was also a back satin weave, also known as satin back, which refers to the method of weaving the fabric.

Even now, it is not uncommon to hear "shusu, shusu" from the elderly.

It has a high density and a strong luster, but it has characteristics such as being sensitive to snags.

This fabric called "rayon satin" is a combination of material and weaving method.

This is the fabric of vintage skajans that can still be seen today.

Especially during this period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s,

Kiryu's human silk fabric, which had been sweeping the world since before the war, was used.

Since ancient times, silk has been considered the highest quality product, and has been used primarily for Japanese clothing.

Acetate was not yet in practical use at this time.

Kiryu has been producing textiles since 1962.

This was a time when the market was dominated by human silk fabrics. You can buy thread cheaper than silk,

With some effort, I was able to make a lot of textiles. It's no wonder the world wants it so much.

Kiryu was the first to introduce this material to the market.

Scene from an obi fabric exhibition in the early Showa era

From “100 Years of Kiryu, Isesaki, and Greenery” (Kyoto Publishing)


In 1918 (Taisho 7), Bunka Obi, which used domestically produced artificial silk thread for the weft thread, was the first human silk fabric in Japan.

It was the forerunner of full-scale commercialization. This is a product created by Kiryu people.

The textile and textile industries were the star industries of the time, and were supported by the country's strong protection policies.

Even in times of recession, the textile town of Kiryu has many female workers from Tohoku and Hokuriku.

There was a reason why I set foot there.

Furthermore, if we were to enumerate the venture temperament of Kiryu people, we can see that they have already been involved since the Meiji era.

We are independently exporting habutae silk fabric to the United States ahead of other export products nationwide.

They expanded into Yokohama to do business with foreign trading companies, and also went overseas to the United States.

Compared to other production areas, Kiryu people were the earliest.

Weavers and purchasers from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period had active interaction with Edo, so

The cultural level was also high.

These include the fact that Kiryu people had strong connections with central organizations from that time;

This means that America knew that Kiryu was Japan's number one producer of silk and human silk fabrics.

Due to the world depression of 1929 (Showa 4),

Japan's once glorious exports of silk textiles have been halved.

Human silk fabrics began to take its place.

They stationed representatives around the world, organized a Southeast Asia research team, and conducted thorough market research.

I learned that large quantities of French textiles were being exported to India,

We have conducted extensive research and developed new products.

When we saw business opportunities in Europe, America, Southeast Asia, Australia, South Africa, etc., we researched the customs and customs.

They continued to sell better products one after another.

Unions played a key role in this success.

It is difficult for small and medium-sized machinery industries to face the turbulent waves of the times.

These days, when the economy is unstable, there are many things that can blow away.

That's where the union comes in. Prewar industrial union laws were strong;

Small and medium-sized industrial enterprises that have the authority to carry out operations such as cartels now have a treasured sword.

It was also actively exported to various parts of China, known as the Manchurian region.

China is an important strategic base, including the Kanto region, which used to be a leased territory for Japan, a resource-poor country.

They challenged the great powers in order to establish a self-sufficient system.

The world saw this as a threat. Due to the implementation of high tariff rates and import quota systems, etc.

The world began doing everything possible to stop the export of Japanese products.

1936-37 (Showa 11-12), when the February 26 Incident occurred.

Kiryu's textile industry is entering its best period in history.

While restrictions were placed on exports, active business was carried out against the backdrop of strong demand from the United States.

It is ironic that Japan will eventually overtake the United States and become the world's number one producer.

A hand-drawn graph showing the amount of yarn used in paulownia production areas (unit: 10,000 kg) from 1945 to 1948.

From the history of modern Kiryu export textiles


Leaving aside the discussion of the period of post-war chaos for future content, let's conclude by looking at the period in which human silk textiles declined.

Due to the bottom recession of 1957-58 (Showa 32-33),

Hitoshikuya was forced to reduce its operations by 50%. This resulted in an oversupply.

The government decided to purchase excess looms such as silk and human silk looms.

Many weaving shops were forced to close down.

The economy began to improve again with the Iwato boom from 1958 to 1961 (Showa 33 to 1961).

However, a wave of structural change was coming. The textile industry, which used to be a star industry, has lost its position.

It will be taken over by steel, shipbuilding, automobiles, machinery and metals, electricity, etc.

In April, the country will enter a liberalization regime known as the "second black ship."

Instead of growing in traditional greenhouses, they are now exposed to harsh international competition.

Human silk textiles have supported Kiryu for about 40 years since the late Taisho period .

In inverse proportion to the period of high economic growth,

Synthetic fiber fabrics such as acetate and nylon are being used.

If you have a vintage acetate jacket,

It can be determined that it is from the 1960s.

~Horizontal sewing machine (Yokoburi Shishu)~

Singer horizontal swing sewing machine (Kiryu City Tourism Exchange Division)


Have you ever heard the name "Yokoburi"?

Unlike lockstitch sewing machines used for sewing, there is no presser foot or feed dog.

Literally, it refers to embroidery sewn on an embroidery machine where the needle moves from side to side.

Many people refer to it as a horizontal swing machine or hand swing machine, but this is a common name.

Officially it is called a zigzag sewing machine. At that time, it was also called a zigzag sewing machine.

(Hereinafter, for the sake of clarity, we will use the common name "horizontal sewing machine.")

Although it has a simple structure, when embroidering it, the fabric must be moved to match the pattern.

Furthermore, by adjusting the lever with the knee of your right foot, you can freely control the swing width.

Speaking of vintage skajans, the most distinctive feature is the embroidery sewn with a horizontal sewing machine.

The current mainstream computerized sewing machines produce flat, neat and clean finishes.

The same embroidery can be made by sewing multiple pieces, but with a horizontal sewing machine, the craftsman sews each piece one by one.

Therefore, even if the same pattern is sewn, there will be some variation, and if the same pattern is sewn by different craftsmen,

Sometimes you can create something even more unique.

Kiryu has been using computer-controlled multi-head jacquard sewing machines since the 1970s.

It becomes mainstream. From side swing to jacquard. This change was also drastic, but

The switch from pre-war hand embroidery to horizontal swing machines also greatly contributed to improved productivity.

Let's turn the clock back to the Taisho era.

During this period, imports of sewing machines began in earnest.

The structure of Japan's domestic clothing manufacturing industry was largely formed in the 1910s.

Including military uniforms, tabi, shoes, bags, etc.

Production of shirts, knitted underwear, coats, etc. became active.

A wide variety of sewing machines have been developed to suit these uses.

The sewing machines of the American company Singer, which had stores in major ports such as Yokohama and Kobe,

Through our unique sales method, we are able to reach out to tailors, small and medium-sized factories in Japan,

Furthermore, it will penetrate into households.

In Kiryu, many horizontal swing sewing machines have been introduced through sewing machine wholesalers.

Since there were many mechanical and electrical repair workers, sewing machines were often modified.

At the time, embroidery factories had about 10 horizontally swinging sewing machines facing each other.

Powered by one motor to move everything at the same time,

A leather belt was attached to the pulley of each sewing machine from the top of the machine to operate it.

When one motor moves, all 10 horizontal sewing machines move.

In the Kiryu area, where there was originally a lot of embroidery related to Japanese clothing, large patterns required a wide range of stitches, so

Sewing machines that were modified from Singer's Model 103 lockstitch sewing machine became mainstream.

Elderly people who knew him back then called him ``Hyaku-san.''

In later years, a sewing machine company founded in neighboring Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture, produced a horizontal sewing machine called STAGER.

There is also an anecdote that it was designed by Kiryu.

During the Meiji period, Kiryu's embroidery business began with the arrival of hand-embroidery craftsmen from Nishijin, Kyoto.

Eventually, as horizontal swing machines became more widespread, productivity increased dramatically.

With high-mix, low-volume production, the division of labor has also been refined.

Embroidery on everything from half-collars, fukusa, and mirror table hangers to Buddhist altar fittings and Japanese clothing became fashionable.

Kiryu was originally an area where weaving, twisting, and dyeing were popular.

With the spread of sewing machines, the region has become able to handle all processes for textile products.

Becoming a nationally known presence.

He is 91 years old (as of 2019) and is the current president of an embroidery business in Kiryu.

Shudong, a member of the Manchurian and Mongolian Pioneer Youth Volunteer Army, returned from Siberia in October 1948.

At first, she considered becoming a police officer, but decided to take over her family's embroidery business.

At that time, the production of souvenir products such as sukajan was booming.

My father, who founded an embroidery business in 1916,

He was one of the first five people in Kiryu to learn how to use a horizontal swing sewing machine from Mr. Horikoshi, a sewing machine wholesaler.

He has been the head of the embroidery union since the war, and is in a position where he can receive information about souvenir products quickly.

Even after the war, when supplies were scarce, he and his colleagues devoted themselves to developing new products.

The Shuto family was also the first to directly embroidery horizontal lines on the uniforms of American soldiers.

Initially, many of the pieces were hand-painted, but when it came to horizontal embroidery unique to Japan,

The power of Kiryu, the production area, was great.

What was the situation with domestically produced sewing machines at that time?

Pine Sewing Machine Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (currently Janome Sewing Machine Industry Co., Ltd.) in Tokyo;

Companies such as Yasui Sewing Machine Brothers Co., Ltd. (currently Brother Industries, Ltd.) in Nagoya were beginning to emerge;

The business is mainly focused on repairs, and is affected by the patent barrier under the Paris Convention.

It became active around the 1930s.

Around this time, Mobo Moga (Modern Boy/Modern Girl) was introduced.

The moral values ​​of Japanese society were rapidly changing.

At this time, Japan had good relations with Western countries, and Kiryu made a name for himself overseas.

As a producer of silk and human silk fabrics, it had expanded into America, Asia, and Africa.

Many girls who graduated from upper elementary schools aspired to Kiryu to become yokofuri craftsmen.

At that time, Japan was trying to become one of the great powers.

As the Greater East Asia War intensified, Kiryu's sewing machine embroidery techniques came under regulatory protection.

After the war, there were almost no air raids, so small-scale equipment such as sewing machines remained.

A widow whose husband had been killed in battle had to raise her children.

She started working as a part-time sewing worker using a Singer treadle sewing machine, which was her wedding accessory.

There were some famous Yokofuri craftsmen in the neighborhood. She is a 15-6 year old girl.

If we brought the finished products to Yokohama or Yokosuka, they would sell like hotcakes.

She often had side jobs at an embroidery shop and became very busy.

Eventually, in 1949, businesses banded together to establish the Kiryu Souvenir Association.

As of 1959, Kiryu was responsible for 85% of the country's horizontal embroidery production, including for export and domestic demand.

In one town, two-thirds of Tonari Gumi were running their own embroidery businesses.

With the spread of sewing machines, textile production areas no longer necessarily equal production areas for the clothing industry.

Sewing and embroidery could be done anywhere in Japan.

A large amount of capital is required to install equipment such as looms, but

This is because an individual could start using a sewing machine even with a small amount of money.

As a result, the number of name and patch embroidery businesses using horizontal sewing machines increased around U.S. military bases.

However, it is questionable whether engineers were present in each region from the beginning.

The answer to that question lies in Mayor Kiryu's strategy after the war.

Mayor Kazuharu Maehara at the time wanted to move from Kiryu, which was a producing area of ​​horizontal embroidery and had many craftsmen.

Engineers were dispatched all over the country.

Promote Kiryu as a manufacturing base by dispatching horizontal embroidery technicians to various locations

I will do it. Although we live in a time when supplies are in short supply,

We produce rayon satin fabric and ribbed jersey,

Since this was a time when the number of garment manufacturers was beginning to increase, I think they thought that it could become a supply base for the whole country.

Yokofuri craftsmen from Kiryu migrated to Yokosuka, Sasebo, Okinawa, and other parts of the country.

There are still a small number of people in various places who make a living from embroidery.

A major reason why Japan started the war was that it was stopped from importing resources from overseas.

Perhaps this is why the Japanese are good at processing resources.

Or you can innovate and create something better than before.

They are good at maximizing added value through constant efforts.

Embroidered products sewn using horizontal sewing machines handled by craftsmen are still available even after more than 70 years.

There is a fact that it fascinates people (albeit a small portion) all over the world.

~Dawn of the sewing industry~

``If our weavers were to go to war, it would never be more conspicuous than this.

I've cooked some sekihan, so please enjoy it. 

With that said, he welcomed fellow union members from the same industry, who had come to see him on a mission to improve the company.

The group went to the factory and were surprised. As if sending his son off to war.

A small Japanese flag was fluttering on each loom.

It is said that the union members did not forget the actions taken by the president of the textile factory until later in life.

This is a scene from the donation of looms during the war.

On June 1, 1943 (Showa 18), the government approved the guidelines for the development of companies to increase military strength.

On July 29th, a decision was made to organize the textile manufacturing industry.

Textile factories with an area of ​​200 tsubo or more are forcibly converted to munitions factories, and machines such as power looms are removed.

It was to be delivered as weapons materials, and the employees to be conscripted into the military industry.

As a result, approximately 600 factories and approximately 13,000 looms were provided,

Nearly 70% of businesses were forced to close down.

After the war, the Japan Silk Twisting Co., Ltd., which was taken over by the Occupation Forces, was also renamed as the Nakajima Aircraft Azuma Factory.

It was converted into a munitions factory for parachute parts.

This year was the last year in which the sound of machines echoed throughout pre-war Kiryu.

Kiryu transformed from a textile capital to a munitions industrial city.

However, this does not mean that there are no weavers.

Production of military supplies such as silk parachutes, designated production for civilian use,

Since there was raw silk, some production was allowed (sales were regulated), but

As the war situation worsened, production gradually became limited to designated production.

The remaining 5,601 looms were still being worked hard by small businesses.

We produce silk and human silk umbrella fabrics, linings for national uniforms in national defense colors, and air defense blackout curtains.

Preventing Kiryu textiles from being cut off by war,

This formed the basis for the creation of the world-class clothing known as sukajan.

Among the businesses that went out of business, there were those who chose the garment industry.

The Kiryu City Library was requisitioned as an army clothing factory.

On May 1, 1945, many female students engaged in student mobilization.

In private factories, the only thing that exists is hemming of tablecloths,

There are only seven factories with more than 30 sewing machines. This is a new industry in Kiryu.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Singer sewing machines dominated the Japanese market.

It was beginning to spread to tailors, small and medium-sized factories, and households.

It was around this time that the treadle sewing machine became a wedding accessory.

However, there are no surplus lockstitch sewing machines for industrial use.

At that time, each company was limited to a small association with only 50 sewing machines, so they had to gather together quickly.

Even so, there was not a single idle lockstitch sewing machine.

However, this land is a production center for machine embroidery.

There were 2,000 idle Singer embroidery machines called SW17 (estimated to be 107W).

By converting a single needle zigzag embroidery machine into a lockstitch machine,

This became the foundation of Kiryu's sewing techniques.

However, in 1951 (Showa 26), when the Korean War economy was booming,

There is evidence that there were 26 jumper shops in Kiryu City.

(In spoken language, it is pronounced ``jumper''.)

The name ``jumper shop'' was chosen because at the time, the industry was booming.

Many people change jobs, and embroidery companies even sew skajans.

Buyers started selling skajans, and cutlet shops even started sewing them.

Many rivals entered the market, creating chaos and crowding.

Now, ``Itohen'' and ``Kinhen'' were two wheels of a car in Kiryu at that time.

They are the husbands of the weaver shop and the old man of the ironworks. He was good at repairing and modifying machinery.

They played hard, worked hard, and made full use of their political power.

One of them, Hikosaku Meisen, in 1942 (Showa 17), as the war intensified,

Disbanded the Kiryu Iron Works Machinery Industry Association as chairman,

He established Kiryu Iron Works Co., Ltd. with remaining former union members, but after the war, he turned to the sewing industry.

At first, she made a living doing horizontal embroidery, but eventually moved on to sewing Skajan jackets.

This is the origin of the only sewing factory in Japan that still remains today, making sukajans from that time.

Many war widows were among those sewing sukajans immediately after the war.

The people of Kiryu have a tradition of high-mix, low-volume production under a division of labor system.

In fact, nearly 70% of the city's residents were engaged in textile-related jobs.

After losing their husbands and having young children, they began working with sewing machines at home as part-time jobs.

The 11 deadstock items found in Kiryu City last year were made with Singer's treadle sewing machine.

It was sewn in this era.

Sukajan, however, was a minor product.

This is because it was made for the Occupation Forces.

As values ​​changed significantly after the war, Japanese people were taught that the war was a mistake.

As the saying goes, “All 100 million people confess their feelings,” even though they feel guilty, they still try to make a living.

I made a lot. The more they made, the more they sold.

In addition, the sewing and embroidery industry is an emerging industry.

Being an outsider compared to the textile industry also had an impact.

However, it can be said that this is precisely why they were able to develop various souvenir products with free ideas.

On the other hand, rayon mufflers were a major product at the time.

This product, which later became Kiryu's first post-war export, sold well to Africa.

Here, I would like to introduce an episode that demonstrates the courage of Kiryu's predecessors.

Although we have received many orders for mufflers, we are unable to provide raw yarn.

So I went to the GHQ headquarters and received a special ration of frozen human silk for export kept by the government.

We are also working directly with GHQ and the Japan Trade Agency when private trade resumes.

At that time, Kiryu had many predecessors with such political power.

After the war, the garment industry was booming due to orders from GHQ.

As the abolition of controls progressed from 1949 (Showa 24),

By the following year, only one or two garment manufacturers remained.

In the order of silk, human silk, and cotton, supplies became more abundant.

As controls were gradually abolished, they were released from greenhouses into the wild.

However, as mentioned above, in Kiryu, where the division of labor has developed,

Many women still used sewing machines at home as part-time work.

Gunma Sewing Tokyo Branch

From “Gunsui Shinbun Tsuzuri”


Meanwhile, in June 1948, a Tokyo branch office was opened in Nihonbashi Odenmacho.

There was a sewing company. Gunma sewing. The company was founded in 1944 (Showa 19),

For people from Kiryu, it might be better to call it Gunpo (later the company name).

Due to wartime corporate restructuring, the textile factory was transformed into a garment factory, and under the supervision of a clothing factory,

Utilizing the female workforce, they sewed military uniforms and knitted underwear.

After the war, the military personnel who managed production remained in Kiryu and became the pioneer of the garment industry for the inland market.

After that, when we exported the blouse to America, we received complaints about its fastness.

There is an anecdote that it became a big hit after lowering the price and exporting it as a "wanderer blouse".

I would like to write this down as an episode with strength and toughness. 

In this way, a new industry, garment companies, began to sprout little by little.

It blossomed into the Occupation Forces' souvenir product ``Sukajan.''

~Occupation Forces~

Current Kiryu Textile Memorial Museum

Built in 1934 (Showa 9), Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Property


On September 13, 1945, about a month after the end of the war, the former Kiryu Textile Hall

(Currently the Kiryu Textile Memorial Museum), the occupation forces were flocking to it.

Weavers in the city are selling products that could not be sold due to the war.

Gradually, they resumed weaving and collected the products they had woven and sold them as souvenirs for the Occupation Forces.

The main products were handkerchiefs, ties, mufflers, tablecloths, etc.

Dolls and battledores were also sold and were very well received.

At this time, the occupation forces searched for ceramics, silk fabrics, etc.

I was walking around visiting production areas all over Japan.

There are two main reasons.

One is to look for souvenir products.

By having or giving souvenirs unique to the place where soldiers are stationed,

He tried to confirm his pride in himself and his love for his family.

The other purpose was to keep track of all supplies produced for military use.

In order to stabilize the lives of the people, we must ensure smooth production and supply of goods.

The wartime economy, which had been focused only on war purposes, changed completely and became more focused on maintaining the lives of the people.

The focus was placed on moving towards future recovery.

As Kiryu was famous as a production area for silk and human silk fabrics, there were many products in stock.

It was noticed from various angles.

The "Central Secretariat for End-of-War Liaison" established on August 26 was in charge of organizing domestic supplies, but

At that time, ordinary people could not borrow money from financial institutions, so

The managers of Itohen did their best.

People started forming organizations to transfer backlogged goods to trading companies,

In order to obtain permission from the Occupation Forces, we collaborated with the Japanese Textile Distribution Control Company,

We worked hard to distribute products through regular channels.

Even so, there were far more supplies secretly stashed or flowing into black market markets.

Another owner of Itohen was also arrested for attempting to smuggle goods through Tsushima.

According to Taisaku Meisen, president of Meisen Sewing, which has been producing Skajans since 1949,

In the attic of the textile factory that I frequented during my childhood (late 1940s to early 1950s),

There was a pile of silk parachute parachutes, and they seemed to be playing by jumping over them.

The occupation forces, setting foot on Kiryu land for the first time, were filled with excitement.

In particular, he has a strong admiration for silk products, such as habutae, Mt. Fuji, and geisha girls.

Handkerchiefs, scarves, etc. embroidered with designs of Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nikko, etc.

They sold like hotcakes, and stores that sold them were given special recognition as ``souvenirs.''

In America at the time, the mainstream embroidery was chain and chinese embroidery made with handle sewing machines.

It's not surprising to be fascinated by the delicate horizontal embroidery on Japanese clothing.

Kiryu's textile industry, which had escaped war damage, was able to start producing immediately.

Regardless of front or back, light or darkness, I competed and created everything in order to survive.

The birth of Skajan was shortly thereafter.


Yokohama was burned down. Large pier on the upper left, Hotel New Grand on the right

From “The End of the Japanese Empire” (Shinjinbutsu Oraisha)


Let's take a rough look at how the Occupation Forces occupied Japan.

Around 9:30 a.m. on August 30, approximately 17,000 fully armed Marines landed at Yokosuka .

After 2:00 p.m. on the same day, Supreme Allied Commander and US Far East Command (Far East Command)

General MacArthur landed on Summer Grass at Atsugi Air Base and proceeded to Yokohama.

From around 11:30 a.m. on September 2, 4 to 5,000 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Eighth Army were on the large pier of Yokohama Port.

Landing began, and from the afternoon of the same day until the following day, the 3rd, the main forces of the 8th Army landed one after another.

On September 17th, the General Headquarters (GHQ) moved to the U.S. Embassy in Akasaka, Tokyo.

Work began on October 2nd at the Hibiya Daiichi Sogo Building (currently Dai-ichi Life Hibiya Headquarters DN Tower 21).

The US Eighth Army Headquarters is based in Yokohama and numbered 94,094 personnel as of the end of December.

Approximately one-quarter of the occupation force's soldiers at the time were concentrated in Yokohama.

The Air Force stationed in Japan (Fifth Air Force) first entered Nagoya on September 26th.

The main force of the 25th division of the U.S. Army, approximately 27,000 soldiers, entered Nagoya Port on October 26th.

Initially, eastern Japan was under the jurisdiction of the 8th Army and western Japan was under the jurisdiction of the 6th Army, but

The Sixth Army headquarters was disbanded on December 31st, and the occupation of all of Japan was left to the Eighth Army.

Yokohama, where its headquarters was located, became the base for the occupation of all of Japan (excluding Okinawa).

 The Occupation Forces deployed troops throughout Japan extremely quickly,

By the end of September, they had mostly completed their advance into Japan, and in October they had completed their advance into Hokkaido and Matsuyama.

On October 5th, the 97th Division of the U.S. Army, stationed at the former Kumagaya Flight School, arrived in Kiryu.

33 soldiers requisitioned the former Nippon Silk Co., Ltd. office building (currently the Silk Co., Ltd. Memorial Hall) and became stationed there.

Other buildings that were requisitioned included the Kanezen Building (which still exists) and the former Kanekiya Ryokan.

The reason why the invasion was accomplished so quickly was that

Much of this is due to the intelligence activities of the U.S. Army and Navy's Air Force Intelligence Unit.

During the war, he took photographs from above and created road maps of all of Japan.

He did thorough research on Japan.

The total number of troops stationed in various parts of Japan was 300,000 by the end of October, when the deployment was almost complete.

The number peaked at 430,000 at the end of November and more than 450,000 in mid-December.

In this way, the United States succeeded in demonstrating its overwhelming power to both the Japanese and the Soviet Union.

And even though souvenir products from Kiryu began to arrive one after another in Yokohama, the base of the occupation,

It didn't take long.

Let's take a look at daily life at that time.

The following is a book written by Ichizo Kimura, a representative of the Kiryu textile industry during and after the war.

Quoting from ``In the footsteps of Kiryu'' (Kiryu Times).

“There was no soap or detergent to wash or take a bath;

Salt, sugar, cooking oil, etc. are of course valuable and difficult to obtain through normal means.

Clothes were patched together and were constantly plagued by fleas, lice, mosquitoes, and bed bugs.

We do not know the future direction of the country, including the lives of many war orphans and disaster victims.

It felt like I was groping around in the dark.

At the same time as returning soldiers begin to return home, reports of war dead begin to arrive.

We must live amidst such joys and sorrows.

How do we live?In both the public and private sectors, at the same time as our personal lives,

They also had to seriously consider how to rebuild the country. 

Mr. Kimura was 35 years old at the time. In July, near the end of the war, he received a summons and went to war.

The war ended with the 65th Kumamoto West Unit in Kumamoto City, and they returned to Kiryu on September 3.

I will continue to quote further to give you a sense of the situation at the time.

``If the military were to move in, how would we be treated?''

The Japanese people, whose land had never been invaded, were only anxious. But on the other hand,

By order of the Emperor, the war ended and there was no more fighting in the country.

People felt a sense of relief that there would be no more air raids.

I think the social conditions of this time are difficult to understand for those who did not experience that era. 

``Even though the war has ended, young officers and non-commissioned officers are determined to fight.

He is in high spirits to prepare for the invasion of enemy forces, and has been cultivated by focusing only on fighting.

He seemed to be complaining about what he should do about his helpless and helpless feelings.

However, those of us older people with wives and children were eager to return home as soon as possible. 

``I went to Kumamoto Station wearing a military uniform, and my feet were eaten by bed bugs and festered due to lack of nutrition.''

He was loaded into a freight car with bare feet and tabi socks, without even being able to wear military boots. There are no more officers or non-commissioned officers there.

They were all in the same car together. On the way back, I visited Hiroshima Station, which was scorched by the atomic bomb.

When I passed through it, I was reminded of the eerie effects of the atomic bomb on the body and of the people affected by it.

I felt bad and just wanted to get through this place as soon as possible.

When I arrived in Osaka, the place was also a burnt out area, but there was a shop built in a barracks.

I received a hot meal and was treated kindly.

It seemed like he had finally regained his humanity. 

``He has a thin body with sharp eyes and no food, and is just looking around and wistful.''

People were conspicuous, and there was a fire left behind by someone as they walked in search of food.

I watched my comrade quickly pick up a cigarette butt and happily smoke it.

When I saw it, I realized that if I could, I would do the same, not just someone else's business.

I couldn't help but feel pity for the human instinct to ignore shame and external appearances in order to survive. 

The story is filled with a sense of mission and is a vivid and valuable testimony.

Like the pendulum of a large old clock, we live in a time when social conditions and emotions swing in enormous swings.

That's why people and things were so energetic and powerful.

When I imagine that Sukajan was born under these circumstances,

The history of the vintage sukajan jacket that I now have in my possession has become even more important.

War is an economic activity.

The economy is affected, and so is your life.

Depending on the legal system and situation of the time, people acted in order to earn a living and chose their occupations.

We look for new customers, learn through experience what sells, and constantly develop products.

Invest and sell when you need it most.

The people of Kiryu found a new customer in the form of occupied US soldiers.

It makes sense that she started an embroidery and sewing business and changed jobs.

From a bicycle shop to an embroidery shop, from an ironwork shop to a sewing shop,

Or they may hire returning soldiers and establish a business style that can be called SPA's flagship.

Even before the war, industries related to yarn, mainly textiles, were vibrant.

They were everywhere in the city, promoting the development of commerce and industry.

The lively atmosphere of the city remained taut like the warp of a fabric.

Sometimes I can't help but think.

If you were alive in this era, how would you have survived?

You may think that it is a waste to think about such things.

But it's never a waste.

The modern world is born into the midst of a global torrent.

Knowing the history of that time and thinking about people's actions,

It is also about acquiring the wisdom to survive the present.

Vintage Sukajan jackets teach us this.

~Souvenir Shop~


Souvenir shop in Yokohama/Isezaki Town

From "Mainichi Graph Special Edition Sun Photo Newspaper 3 1945" (Mainichi Shimbun)


Shanghai in the northern Kanto region.

After the war, Kiryu was sometimes called that.

Around 100 stalls are lined up around Kiryu Station and Nishi-Kiryu Station.

Behind the station are Kanigawa-dori, Suehiro-dori, Honmachi-dori and Itoya-dori.

Every day it was filled with people desperate to survive.

At Fuji Restaurant, which has a dance hall and a mysterious exotic atmosphere,

The masters of the weaving shop use their political power to entertain people night after night.

American soldiers from Ota City, where the military administration headquarters was located, and Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture, where the 97th Division headquarters was located.

Rather than living in a place with strict surveillance, he often goes to Kiryu, which flourished as a silk fabric manufacturer even before the war.

In the early Showa period, the restaurant industry and cafes flourished, and at its peak there were about 300 geisha.

Kiryu was the most populous city in Gunma Prefecture and met the requirements for a thriving city at the time.

This historic merchant town had the potential to accept diverse values.

It was also at Fuji that a certain purchaser and a U.S. military officer met for the first time.

Black market and street stalls that appeared all over the country in the confusion after the defeat,

After the occupation, we can't help but feel the wealth of America with the overwhelming amount of goods.

Many business formats were born, such as PX (Post Exchange/a department store for American soldiers).

Among them, the origin of the "souvenir shop" that was around the base,

This will be considered in conjunction with the relationship with the people of Kiryu.

The scenery of barracks lined with stalls was typical of everyday life in Japan in the immediate post-war period.

According to a survey conducted by the Tokyo Street Vendors Association in July 1946,

38.2% of street vendors were war victims, 19.9% ​​were unemployed, 13.7% were veterans, and 10.0% were survivors of military personnel.

Black market trading was rampant everywhere at the end of the war.

With the end of the war, these were exposed to the light of ordinary citizens,

The black market transforms into a place of relaxation that is essential to the lives of ordinary people.

Around the day after the end of the war, several street vendors suddenly appeared in various parts of Japan at the same time.

It is said that the items were lined up in the vacant lot in front of the station where buildings were evacuated and on the street.

Both sellers and buyers, the general public accepts black market transactions in order to survive.

The government sometimes acquiesced or actively used the system.

At first, most of the items were the shopkeeper's belongings, such as clothing, footwear, and kitchen utensils such as pots, but

Over time, the area became stocked with vast amounts of military supplies and items discarded by the occupying forces.

Kiryu was seen by the authorities as having a lot of black market dealing.

Textile-related businesses are subject to a very harsh assessment by the National Tax Bureau.

There was so much resentment against the tax office that they had to erect barricades to protect themselves.

It is true that many textiles are sold to black market brokers, who use them to manufacture specified products.

Even if we had secured the yarn, problems such as the product not arriving were commonplace.

Those who produced munitions during the war,

With no one left to sell to (the Japanese military), he had no choice but to find a way out through the black market.

GHQ grasped the supply amount of production areas and controlled the procurement of materials, but

At the private sector level, it is no surprise that materials from the war still remain.

Takasaki 100 Years 57th Photo

Social gathering between city officials and American military officers Provided by Kiyo Harada

(Source: Takasaki City Public Relations Takasaki “Takasaki 100 Years”)


Mr. T, who had been traveling between Tokyo and Kiryu as a purchasing agent since before the war, sought out connections with the Occupation Forces.

When I heard that there was a social gathering between the city government and the occupation forces, I hurried to Restaurant Fuji.

``I have heard that hundreds of thousands of soldiers are coming to Japan.

I think it must be difficult to live in an unfamiliar place.

That's why I want to welcome Kiryu with all its might.

So, if you have any requests or problems, no matter how small, please let me know. 

Many industrial products are strictly controlled by the occupation forces as controlled goods,

It was clear that they were trying to prevent Japan from gaining national power, but

GHQ has issued a notice to immediately increase production in industries related to food, clothing, and shelter.

"Many American soldiers are family-oriented.

Give local souvenirs to your family when you return home,

They have a culture of dressing themselves.

Why not make it possible for everyone to see your technology and products somewhere? 

After soliciting the opinions of the officers, Mr. T began working energetically the next day.

We encouraged our members to learn English conversation, and gathered English teachers and people with experience studying abroad.

He also came up with the idea of ​​displaying members' products as souvenirs in the textile cooperative building.

This is the birth of the first "souvenir shop" in Kiryu.

There, soldiers began requesting embroidery directly on their military uniforms.

They were paying attention to obi and kimono with horizontal embroidery.

Completely custom-made, military uniforms with horizontal embroidery look cool and are popular among American soldiers.

However, because it became popular, it stood out too much.

Eventually, his superiors would prohibit him from customizing the military uniforms he was issued.

Children in Kiryu received chocolates and candies from American soldiers riding in jeeps.

He frequented stores such as ``Yami Kuri'' (meaning Kurihara Shoten, which buys products behind the scenes), which sells discarded clothes.

He became friendly with the American soldiers.

In this way, the Occupation Forces occupied all parts of the country with surprising speed.

In late 1945, handkerchiefs made from the white silk of parachutes were sold as Christmas presents to occupation forces.

It happened at one of the countless souvenir shops in Yokohama.

Since the Meiji era, Kiryu and Yokohama have had a close relationship through exports of silk textiles, etc.

From around this time, souvenir goods made in Kiryu began to be transported to Yokohama by train every day by various companies.

The younger brother of Mr. T, a purchasing agent, moved from Tokyo to Yokohama after the war.

Opened a souvenir shop in Isezaki-cho for American soldiers.

The production was originally done by relatives in Kiryu who were involved in the embroidery industry.

Parachute fabric, a former munitions material, was procured behind the scenes from a private company, and horizontal embroidery was applied to it.

The horizontal embroidery technique, which had been under regulatory protection during the war to preserve the technique, flourished as a souvenir.

What is special about Mr. Younger Brother is that he is able to attract customers at the store in Yokohama.

We hired young female craftsmen from Kiryu so that we could sell while demonstrating.

He obtained a list of American soldiers who were scheduled to enter the port and came up with the idea of ​​embroidering each person's name on it.

They established a business model in which they pay a fee to the captain of the ship from which they obtain the product.

At that time, people visited Isezaki Town in Yokohama one after another to get a glimpse of its prosperity.

Shop owners from Ginza also visited in droves.

The requisitioned Hattori Clock Store on Ginza 4-chome was turned into a PX, and there were countless stalls around it.

Merchants were also desperately trying to figure out what was selling to American soldiers and whether they could purchase that product.

Soon, Skajan jackets were lined up at a Ginza stall.

It was a souvenir shop in Yokohama that first brought Sukajan there.

It was produced and delivered by Kiryu.

People around the world were surprised at the seriousness and kindness of many Japanese people.

The reason that the occupation went so smoothly is probably due to the Japanese national character.

The following is a quote from Naoki Hyakuta's "New Edition of Japan's National Chronicles (Part 2)" p.55.

“From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, many Europeans visited Japan,

Many of them were surprised by the Japanese society and culture they saw for the first time, and wrote about it.

Some of the comments are critical, while others are viewed with disgust. (Omitted)

However, there is one thing that they are all equally impressed with.

It is the honesty and sincerity of the Japanese people. 

The soldiers of the occupation forces against the nameless craftsmen who were making Skajans.

I think they must have felt the same way.

It is common for something that seems obvious to the person in question to be seen from the outside to be unusual.

Of course, there is also the finish and beauty of the embroidery,

The craftsmen spared no effort in expressing their skills as seriously and carefully as possible.

Compared to modern times, it doesn't glorify humanity, and there are quite a lot of barbaric stories.

Still, the spirituality of ordinary people at that time was foreign to foreigners.

I think this led to a kind of respect for him with a kind of envy.

Let me assure you that one of the mediums was Skajan.

An encounter with Kiryu's horizontal embroidery technique led to the birth of Sukajan.

Then, it spread all over the country at the same time.

Not only did the American soldiers who were the consumers want it,

The suppliers, souvenir shops and jumper shops, also created their own products.

Competition among vendors was fierce, and counterfeiting of designs and theft of Skajan jackets were common.

Nevertheless, it sold at an unusually high rate until the time of special procurement during the Korean War.

Finding beauty in the determination to survive difficult times.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks there's something Japanese about it.

And that same blood flows through our lives even today.

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