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A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten – Raw Denim In Japan

This is a guest post from Jonathan at The Bandanna Almanac, a great site that covers a variety of cool things from photography and design to Japanese textiles and vintage work-wear.  

Johnathan recently had the opportunity to visit with Hiro and Ryo, the couple behind Japanese denim brand Ooe Yofukuten, and tour their workshop. In doing so, he found what he calls a “living sewing museum” which he has been kind enough to share with us. His interview with Hiro and Ryo can be found here.


Where Ooe Yofukuten products are painstakingly constructed

I had some preconceptions of Ooe Yofukuten before entering, but one thing I hadn’t expected was to enter a living sewing museum tucked cozily into the countryside of Japan. This workshop is more akin to an industrial-era museum than a sewing workshop. In reality it is a little of both.


Hiro showing me a double-needle chain-sticher. Capable of sewing back pockets, front pockets and a few long seat seams.


Results of the Double Needle Machine

Ryo and Hiro spent the morning and afternoon with me showing me around their workspace. Taking their time explaining what each machine does and how they work.

Of course, they pointed out specifically the year each machine was built (most pre-1930). I would have to say as a person who loves old machines (especially old textile machines), I was in heaven.


Union Special with belt loop attachment

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Gear-fed Double Needle Long Seam Stitcher. This can sew anything. For the hard stress point seams on the seat and the long seams on the legs.


Seam Stitcher – Before & After

All of my preconceptions had been entirely erased by mid-morning.


Chain stitching machine with “Top Secret” waistband attachment. Gear fed.

There is something very magical going on in this little workshop. The sound of servos and clutch motors purring, the elegant spinning of fine mechanisms, it all made a sort of window into the past. A living tribute to a time of simple items of high quality.


A very ancient thread stand that came with the long-arm stitcher.


Old Double Needle Union Special, Long arm. For sewing long seams

Ooe Yofukuten doesn’t make just jeans, but a wide assortment of hand made goods. Ranging from tissue cases, to jackets, and bags. Everything is sewn on these musical gear-driven machines. Every piece made by two peoples’ hands. What they are really creating here are folk crafts.


The reliable single needle chain stitcher. When all else fails this is the back-up.



As we talked and shared bits of our own histories with each other we came to realize that each of us had found new in the old. Our inspirations and techniques from people long ago.


Wonder where this came from? Chain stitching for hems

It isn’t just machines but also materials that make things special here. Denim painstakingly chosen for authenticity and color. If you are going to make a heritage product you have to keep things real. Using old machines is an integral part of this process, as it shows the obsession for authenticity, and the importance to quality.

The heritage of denim is locked in chain stitches and the history of these machines; customers can feel assured that what they are getting is a piece of restored history.


Semi-automatic button hole finisher.1970’s German made machine. More like a orchestra of gears.


The best materials for the job

After we visited each workstation and once I understood completely how each product is produced, Ryo and Hiro showed me some of their trinkets, and past and current projects.


Ichinomiya wool-blanket lined work coverall


Three pairs of samples – Colour evolution


“B^UTTONS”‘. Ooe Yofukuten’s selections of custom rivets, buttons, and patches.


Back patches


A pair of jeans that have traded several hands, and took a trip around the world.


Signatures and graffiti on the Traveler’s Jeans

Stay Raw!

– Johnathan

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