Kojima is a quaint seaside district located in the city of Kurashiki, in Okayama Prefecture. With an estimated the denim mecca of Japan, and affectionately called “denim town” by locals.
Kojima has been a thriving textile town throughout history with large scale cotton
cultivation dating back to before the Edo period. It then went on to really hit its stride in the late Edo period as a thriving center for “sanada-himo” production – basically the cloth cords used to wrap various sword handles – essential merchandise for that time period.
During the Meiji era, Kojima also became the manufacturing center for traditional Japanese socks known as tabi – characterized by their ankle-high length and separation between the big toe and the other toes, worn by both men and women with traditional thonged footwear such as zori or geta. After World War II, Kojima was bustling with activity and struggling to keep up with the constant stream of orders for school uniforms servicing most of the nation.
It was not until the ‘60s that Japan’s jeans production began in Kojima, when the company Maruo Clothing launched its first jeans, the company is now known as Big John. With its already efficient techniques for producing school uniforms at an extraordinary number, and aided by the existing sewing machine technology built up through its vast history of textile production, Kojima quickly became the domestic hub for denim production in Japan.
Today, denim aficionados from all across Japan, and indeed the world over, flock to Kojima to visit the famed jeans shopping district encompassing around 30 stores to purchase the high quality jeans from various local producers including veteran companies like Johnbull, Betty Smith – a great innovator in women’s denim, Highrock – famed for its “bush pants” the unique designer Kapital, Dania Japan – extremely popular amongst Japan’s smaller high-end boutiques, as well as the aforementioned Big John. Though one brand in particular stands out for its die hard jeans enthusiasts, for whom it has reached cult status around the world - Momotaro Jeans of the Japan Blue Group.
The secret to Momotaro Jeans’ high quality, it is claimed, is the special cotton used which is sourced straight from Zimbabwe. This cotton is usually reserved for the manufacture of fine dress shirts due to its lustrous soft qualities, this is also the supposed reason for the jeans’ supple texture and their trademark vertical stripes, or “tate-ochi”. The company also utilizes an old style shuttle loom in production to enable the weaving of “selvage denim”. Although most jeans manufacturers have long discarded shuttle looms in favor of more efficient mass production techniques, Momotaro Jeans’ continued use of the technique allows the creation of the type of uneven surface that is the mark of superior quality denim.
The jeans district of Kojima is even serviced by a local “jeans bus” which has an exterior painted to resemble denim, whilst the interior of the bus is furnished with the real deal. The address of the jeans district is Kojima-Ajino, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture, and can be reached on foot from JR Kojima Station in around 15 minutes.