Home » Art » The Textile Art of Itchiku Kubota

The Textile Art of Itchiku Kubota



RSS tumblr

  • Portfolio site I made a portfolio website using Adobe’s... 8 January, 2018
    Portfolio site I made a portfolio website using Adobe’s MyPortfolio to show my print design work and some of the book arts education I’ve done, mostly at Indian Springs School, but now also at the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest.

Because both of my parents have been involved in the textile industry– my dad owns a small company that sells and customizes uniforms, and my mom used to own a small business that made children’s clothes– I’ve always been around fabric arts.  From embroidery and cross-stitching to quilting and weaving, there’s such a rich history of the politics and social impact of fabric arts.  In fact, because of the political weight of the “folk arts” scene, fabric arts are culturally undervalued and underrepresented in art history scholarship.

Case in point: the kimono art of Itchiku Kubota. I first encountered Kubota in high school on a family trip to Washington, D.C.  We stumbled upon his exhibition at the Smithsonian and were totally awed by his beautiful tie-dye (tsujigahana) kimonos.  My mom was visionary enough (at 15, I was not) to buy the exhibition poster and a number of postcards and she kept the poster over her desk for a few years.  When I went away to college I requested to take it with me, and it’s been over or near my desk since 1998, providing a source of continual inspiration as well as of pleasant memories of my family.

When I had to choose a topic for my pathfinder assignment for my Reference class, all I had to do was look up.  There’s an entire museum dedicated to Kubota in Japan, but there have only been two exhibitions of his work in the U.S. (one had multiple sites).  Perhaps my pathfinder could encourage greater attention to Kubota’s beautiful work.  Here is what I found (also available as a Google Doc; comments on how to improve this Pathfinder are welcome):

Selected Print Books and Exhibition Catalogs

Frankel, D. (1980). Itchiku Kubota: Kimono in the ”Tsujigahana” Tradition: Exhibition Catalog. CA: California State University at Fullerton. NK8898.K89 I8

Gluckman, D.C. (2008). Kimono as art : the landscapes of Itchiku Kubota. London : Thames & Hudson. NK9502.2.K82 K56 2008

Kimono as Art Education Committee (2008). Kimono as art : the landscapes of Itchiku Kubota : teacher resource guide. [Canton, Ohio] : Kimono as Art Education Committee. J R 746.92 KIM (Dewey)

Kubota, I. (1995). Itchiku Kubota. Itchiku Tsujigahana (Homage to nature landscape kimonos by ITCHIKU KUBOTA). Arlington, VA : Virginia Lithograph. NK9502.2 .K82 .A4 1995

Kubota, I. (1979). Itchiku Tsujigahana. NY: A & W Publishers, Inc. NK9502.2.K82 A4 1979

Yamanobe, T. (1984). Opulence : the kimonos and robes of Itchiku Kubota. Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International. NK9502.2.K82 A4 1984 fol.

Selected Articles

“To dye for: portraying nature on silk [Landscape kimonos by Itchiku Kubota: National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C; exhibit].” Landscape Architecture v. 86 (March 1996) p. 20+

Diane M. Bolz, D.M. (1995). “Itchiku Kubota’s fascination with an ancient textile art.” SMITHSONIAN. 26, no. 9, (1995): 64-69.





Exhibitions (By Year)

Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota. 2008-2009. San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, CA.

Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota. 2009. Canton Museum of Art. Canton, OH.

Homage to Nature: The Landscape Kimonos of Itchiku Kubota. 1995. Canadian Museum of Civilization. Gatineau, Quebec

Landscape Kimonos by Itchiku Kubota. 1995-96. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

There is a permanent gallery dedicated to Kubota in Yamanashi, Japan. The museum does not have an English website, but it does give tours in English. Directions can be found here.

Selected Videos

The following videos are short pieces describing the exhibition of Kubota’s work in San Diego in 2008-09 and Canton, OH in 2009. These and other related short films can be viewed as a playlist on YouTube. Many of these were produced by ArtsinStark, the Community Arts Council of Canton, OH.

A video of the “Kimono as Art” exhibit with detailed views of the kimonos

A video of the opening of “Kimono as Art” exhibit that shows the scale of the kimonos

“Reactions to KIMONO in San Diego”


A radio review and press conference for the Canton, OH Exhibit with brief interview with Kubota’s son

Web Resources

A HOW.com explanation of how Kubota creates his kimonos

Web Resources – Selected Reviews

Local news reviews of the Canton, OH exhibit (2009): 123456

Pittsburgh reviews of the Canton, OH exhibit (2009): 12

Web Resources – Selected Blogs

There are no blogs dedicated solely to Kubota’s work, but the following entries are informative. Due to the personal nature of these sites, they are better used as starting points than as research material.

A blog on Japanese embroidery techniques that mentions Kubota’s work in the context of the history of Japanese embroidery

A brief discussion of the ethics of Kubota’s craft in contrast to American folk art

As this post was initially written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, it may be more reliable

Other Pathfinders
San Diego Public Library’s pathfinder in conjunction with the San Diego Museum of Art’s “Kimono as Art” exhibit contains a few works directly related to Kubota and more general information about Kimonos, Japanese art and Japanese literature.


  1. Robert says:

    Like you, I stumbled upon that Smithsonian exhibit as a young person and have been carrying around the postcard as a reminder to find out more. I am now in Japan and plan on visiting the museum with my mother, to show her some of the country. I can’t wait.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    We just visited Japan as CINET, the Comite INternational de l’Entretien du Textile, or the International Committee of Textile Care, the umbrella organization of associations for Professional Textile Care. We are used to visit (in all sort of countries worldwide) an exhibition, in this case the Clean Life Vision exhibition in Tokyo, and to combine this with visits to suppliers, DryCleaners and Laundries. Of course we also make a tour in Tokyo and surroundings, for more cultural information. Our agency in Tokyo, Nippon Travel Agency, came up with the idea to visit the Kubota Itchiku Museum, as he said: Museum about Kimono. He gave us this link: http://www.itchiku-museum.com/en.pdf.
    When we read the brochure, we thought that this visit would be very interesting for our group, who has strong relations with special care of textiles. The visit of the museum was the most impressive part of our trip! On our way to the museum our guide showed us a DVD about Kubota Itchiku, about his life and how he managed to make all his special kimono’s, sometimes telling complete stories by itself! Visiting the museum we were even more impressed! We bought all our presents for family and friends in the museum, calenders for 2013 and postcards, so that we can share the achievements of Kubota Itchiku with a lot of people!
    You did a very good job in gathering all this information about Kubota Itchiku! When we ever have the possibility to visit the Smithsonian in Washington, we surely will do that, so that we can enjoy the work of this remarkable man once again!
    Best regards,
    Marianne Wennekes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: