Survey: Katsuojima-shirt & Uogashi-shirt



Katsuojima-shirt & Uogashi-shirt (Shizuoka, Japan)

Japanese workwear born from the lifestyle of fishermen.

Yaizu Port in Shizuoka Prefecture, which even today boasts the country's top volume of fish landings, namely bonito, is a flourishing fishing port with an extensive history spanning back to the Edo period.

Traditionally, when the local fishermen reeled in the bonito by ippon-zuri, or single-hook fishing, they removed the hooks by holding the fish sandwiched under their arms, so they wore workwear called "katsugimon". The katsugimon were woven with sturdy cotton thread that helped prevent the bonito from slipping.

During the end of the Taisho period, a specific style of white shirt with blue vertically striped patterns became a popular choice among fishermen. The fabric was woven by the women of the household with the hope of large hauls and the safety of their family members.

The men would then bring these hand-woven fabrics to tailors to have them altered into shirts. All of the fishermen from Yaizu who traveled around the country, from Okinawa in the south to the Sanriku coast in the north, to follow the migration patterns of bonito became widely recognized due to their unique style of shirts.

This type of workwear, which eventually became known as the "Katsuojima" shirt, was created with an emphasis on functionality. Made with thick, sturdy cotton material, the shirt, which were made long to prevent them from getting untucked from the pants, featured loose doleman sleeves that made it easier to move, stand-up lapelless collars, narrow cuffs, and chest pocket flaps to store cigarettes and other small items.

At the "Yaizu Fishery Museum", where traditional Yaizu fishing gear is collected and displayed, you can see the actual Katsuojima shirts worn at the time.

Katsuojima shirts were regularly worn by fishermen in Yaizu until around 1965, but due to the spread of ready-made clothes, the amount of time and effort it took to hand weave them the shirt became almost completely obsolete. While there were over 30 tailors in Yaizu before the Second World War, that number steadily declined over time. Under these circumstances, it was one man, the late Yozo Mori, commonly referred to as "Yaizu's last Katsuojima tailoring craftsman" and owner of Morishou Shoten, a store that was established in 1913, who kept the tradition alive. However, during the beginning of the 21st century, Mori, who had continued to manufacture the traditional Katsuojima shirts, made the decision to retire from his craft.

The Katsuojima shirt was in danger of facing complete "extinction", but Makoto Mochizuki, owner of "Yakitsu-ya", a Yaizu-based store that carries traditional Japanese products, proposed to develop a successor in order to pass down the culture of the shirt onto the next generation. Akiko Suzuki, who lived in Yaizu and possessed excellent dressmaking techniques, was chosen to inherit the pattern and manufacturing techniques of the Katsuojima shirt. Today, Suzuki carries on the Morishou Katsuojima brand all by herself, carefully hand-stitching each Katsuojima shirt individually.

In addition to the Katsuojima shirt, there is another type of shirt that has been regularly worn by men in the fishing industry in Yaizu. During the early Showa period, an era when people did not own many possessions, a style of shirt called the "tenugui juban" that featured three-quarter sleeves made by piecing together cotton tenugui or Japanese hand towels, typically used during festivals or given as gifts in return for presents that were received.

The loosely-woven cotton tenugui fabric possessed superb moisture-absorption and quick-drying properties, and the loose fitting design provided excellent breathability, making it a popular garment for the summertime. In 1977, Mori's Morishou Shoten commercialized the tenugui juban shirt after dyeing it with an original hand-dyeing method called "chusen", a technique that was passed down from the province of Enshu, and then tailoring it with a fabric that featured an "uogashi" (fish market) logo. He named this garment the "Uogashi shirt".

The Uogashi shirt slowly became popular among the local residents, and during the 21st century it was featured in the media as an item that would help revitalize the city of Yaizu, and today is worn by municipal officers to promote the city. Just as Aloha shirts are to Hawaii and Kariyushi shirts are to Okinawa, Uogashi shirts have come to represent the city of Yaizu.

The culture of these types of utility garments, which were born out of the everyday work and lifestyles of the common people, still exist today thanks to the strong desires and passion of the local residents to preserve these pieces

*Today, Yakitsu-ya is the only store that still carries products from the Morishou brand. Morishou Katsuojima shirts are made to order and normally take between 100 and 200 days to deliver.


054 627 6415
Opening Hours: 10:00-18:00
Closed: Wednesday

Survey, defined as: to examine or inspect. In these features, we will be reporting on things, people, places, or cultures that inspire us in our daily work of making products.

edit & text: Kosuke Ide
photo: Keisuke Fukamizu