Senshu’s Izumiotsu City

is the birthplace of Japanese blankets.

Visit the Birthplace of Japanese Blankets – The Perfect Way to Stay Warm in Winter

Izumiotsu City is the birthplace of Japanese blankets, and is considered to produce the best blankets in the country. This is not surprising, since it is the first place Japanese blankets were produced. In fact, more than 90% of domestic blankets are still made in Izumiotsu and its surrounding regions!

The Origins of Japanese Blankets

A blanket manufacturer in Izumiotsu City.

Blanket production in Izumiotsu City has a history of over 130 years. It was inspired from the introduction of blankets from overseas, when Japan opened up to the world in the Meiji era (1868-1912) after a long period of isolation. Imported blankets were very expensive, so they sought to make their own.


One origin story posits that the initial techniques used to make blankets was borrowed from the famous warrior Yukimura Sanada (1567-1615), who was on the losing side of the pivotal Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He moved to Koyasan—one of Japan’s most sacred Buddhist areas—and eventually lived a life of solitude, confined to his house in Kudoyama. There he developed a style of weaving to make strings for the purpose of fastening swords and obi (belts for kimonos).


During the Meiji period, western culture and influences spread across the country. Part of the spread included a type of red blanket with black stripes called aka-getto. These blankets were expensive but were very popular. The imported versions were made from wool but the material was not readily available in Japan and local weavers sought to find an alternative, cost-effective method of production.

A blanket during the weaving process.

Blankets were initially made from the hair of cattle, but they were not popular due to the poor quality and bad smell they produced. Improvements were made in cattle rearing techniques, which produced better quality blankets over time, but other sources for material were also considered.


Cotton cultivation became popular in Izumiotsu and the Senshu region around the 16th century, and in the Edo period (1603-1868) Izumi cotton flourished as cotton weaving techniques developed. During the Meiji era, the development of cotton blankets became commonplace due to the high quality of cotton and cheap production costs. The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) led to increased demand for cotton blankets, which boosted exports of blankets from the area.

A blanket during the pile-raising process.

Quality of the blankets improved, and it was eventually decided that separating the steps of production would increase efficiency. In particular, it was noted that pile-raising, which is the process of fluffing the surface of a fabric commonly seen in blankets and carpets to provide a soft finish, was particularly important in providing high quality, comfortable blankets. Factories were often small and cramped, so having different processes split to different locations was also beneficial. The system of splitting parts of production was established in the Taisho era (1912-1926), and led to the development of specialized factories throughout Izumiotsu. One blanket would visit several factories for each step of its production.


World War II saw a period of poverty, which saw a decline in the interest for Japanese blankets, but demand increased again once the war ended. Experimentation in using a wider range of materials such as silk and cashmere increased, as well as the development of blankets for different purposes such as for rugs or to cover heated tables known as kotatsu.

Main Blanket Types & Characteristics

Check out these unique blankets!

There are two main types of blankets produced in Izumiotsu City. The first is the Ori Blanket which uses traditional weaving methods to create blankets made from wool. Fine threads are woven together with thick threads and brushed to finish. Thanks to the jacquard weave, which is characterized by complex woven designs, beautiful patterns can be created on these blankets.


The other type is the Maiya Blanket, which came later, and is named after the German textiles manufacturer Karl Mayer. The type is a knit blanket characterized by long piles, which produces a softer touch. Yarn is finely knitted and the process of pile-raising is taken with great care to ensure a comfortable blanket.


The industry has also recently been experimenting with different elements of design. The Japan Blanket Association is currently working on a project to produce replica western and Japanese artworks on blankets. Famous western works include the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Café Terrace at Night by Vincent van Gogh. Popular Japanese works include The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushita Hokusai and Otani Oniji III in the Role of the Servant Edobei by Toshusai Sharaku.

A blanket with the “Q” logo, the Izumiotsu mark of quality.

During the early 1990s, the introduction of cheaper blankets from China entered the Japanese market, and proved popular to the point where the imports exceeded domestic production. Although there were more than 1,000 factories at the height of the industry, many ceased production or went out of business, leaving only a few dozen in the area. Two large factories remain, which integrate all of the processes under one roof.


To distinguish the difference between cheaper imports and higher quality domestic blankets, the Japan Blanket Association (established 1954) developed the “Q” logo in 2008. The logo can only be attributed to blankets produced by factories which meet the high standards of Izumiotsu blankets. All of the processes must be domestic, though raw materials may be imported from abroad.


Visitors interested in purchasing an Izumiotsu blanket can do so inside the Izumiotsu Public Library, which is served by the Nankai Main Line from summer 2021. Alternatively, some souvenir items are also available for purchase at terminal 2 of Kansai International Airport.


For information on hands-on activities in Izumiotsu, please contact the Senshu Japan Concierge Team.

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