My previous posts on Okayama:
In my previous post, you already read that Kojima of Kurashiki City in Okayama Prefecture is the birth place of Japan-made jeans.
Today’s post is about this unique street dedicated to all denim lovers, and it is called Kojima Jeans Street – where the first pair of domestically-produced jeans was born.
After visiting this place and Betty Smith (more later), I turned to Arisa who helped organize this trip, and said to her, “Die liao. I don’t know how many blog posts I will end up writing about just Okayama.”
True enough, this is the 4th blog post and I’m still not done with Okayama yet. Maybe just half way through. But I knew that for Kojima Jeans Street, it deserves a whole dedicated blog post on its own.
So here goes.
You will not miss the street from afar, just spot this huge denim sign and you will know you’re here at the holy land of jeans in Japan.
So how did the history of jeans start in this little street?
To summarize the history, it was to do with cotton cultivation. Kojima’s geographical location by the sea is making its soil too salty for rice farming, but perfect to grow cotton. And since then with its fluffy, premium quality cotton, Okayama has always had a strong reputation in the textile industry of Japan, traced all theway back to the samurai period where sanadahimo was made for Japanese swords, and hakama for samurais.
The business flourished into the modern era and Kojima became the textile hub where most of the nation’s school uniforms were made.
The first pair of jeans was made in 1965 by a manufacturer called Big John with a huge success, and soon more jeans maker joined the trend and turn Kojima into the mecca of Japan-made denim.
It was a holiday when I visited so many shops were closed but it was nontheless a really inspiring walk through the street.
Even without shopping, just enjoying all the little creative details of this denim town is delightful.
If you are in the mood, try the “Indigo Soft Cream”! It says that it is salted vanilla flavor topped with blue powder. If you ever try it let me know how it taste like. ^^
Vending machine dressed in denim.
Jeans-clad public astray.
Even the asphalt was painted indigo resembling the pride produce of this little town. I was deeply impressed.
You’ll see jeans hanging up high between the streets and I was wondering what happens when it rains!
Denim enthusiasts or not, one can definitely appreciate the passionate expression that decorated this little unique street.
If you are looking for more than just creative art expressions and Instagenic photo spots and want to seriously delve into the Japan culture of craftsmanship (plus some really good shopping), I’d recommend a visit to the really impressive Betty Smith Jeans Museum – it is so huge that it is literally a small village.
It is founded in 1962 and is currently the only jeans museum in Japan.
There are many big denim names in Kojima, including Momotaro Jeans (who produces some of the most expensive jeans in Japan!) , Japan Blue and Betty Smith is one of them.
Little red-haired Betty Smith greets you at the entrance. She’s the face on the logo you will see on all the products here.
The “museum” is more than what I expected, with every single corner creatively expressed to spark an interest even for the non-savvy.
Here you will see lots of elements that connect back to its America origin, including priced vintage pieces, sewing machines, etc.
Go upstairs and you will find a space where you get spoilt for choice ordering a custom-made jeans.
Here you can get your measurements done, select the fabric and accessories, and even the treatment process you wish to have in order to custom-make your very own only-one-in-the-world pair of denim.
A good pair of jeans does take weeks to come to life if you custom-make one, so if you are visiting Kojima and leaving Japan soon, the good news is they do take international order and will be able to to deliver the pair of jeans to your home address!
This little loft is so full of vintage rustic charm I can imagine it used for magazine fashion shoots!
This is the sewing factory. I as told that it remains the same as the first day it started other than its refurbished facade, and can you believe that every single pair of jeans is hand-sewn with sewing machines?
You can observe the working process through the window of this factory.
There’s an even larger museum in the village, where you can learn about the history of Japan-made jeans.
You will learn about how jeans were cut and washed, you can also have a hands-on experience of jeans-making for a fee!
Go along further and you will learn about the fashion history and trends of Japanese denim, and signature pieces of each era from brands like Big John and Betty Smith’s own are on display too.
This is apparently the uniform of Bobson’s Race Queen in the 90s!! How nostalgic.
Make Your Own Denim!
I really hoped that I had more time here so I can make my very own pair of jeans. Here’s something you shouldn’t miss if you come all the way here to Kojima!
Here are some of the little mini workshops you can join to experience the work of a jeans craftsman. You can buy a pair of original jeans here and experience the customization process – make your very own pair of jeans!
Due to time limitation, I was only able to experience a keychain strap making.
Picking buttons to be pressed on.
It was a super quick experience, quite fun nontheless. It’s always nice to have something customize and hand-made!
You can do it for a small fee so it makes perfect souvenirs to bring back home too.
Spotted one One Piece collab!
Betty Smith Outlet
Next up is everyone’s favorite – shopping time! Seriously, don’t leave empty hand when you come to Kojima!
The goods sold at the outlets are directly from its factory so you can expect the best quality at a low price.
Check out all the ultra cute denim goods such as this 2019 calendar! For only 500 yen.
Lots of adorable accessories too.
You can also find rare gems on the sales rack, where pairs of jeans are sold at crazy cheap prices due to “slight defects”, which is explained in a little lable on the jeans (location of the defect, and the nature of it). I bought this pair of corduroy cream denim for only 500 yen, and when Japanese say “defects” it doesn’t mean anything lol (some are so tiny I couldn’t even spot). Just treat them as a pair of vintage and all defects become its charms.
Love the denim tote bags and pouches too.
Betty Smith is a true village. Here’s a garden you can relax at, there is even a Dog Run (a playground for your furry pals!).
And its very own car. (The car seats are made of denim!)
Matching tees and denim from Betty Smith.
Yes, with fast fashion and such, we can easily buy a pair of jeans for just a couple of small bank notes but we also know that a good pair of jeans lasts forever. In fact, the longer you wear it the more you will come to love it, with fades and creases in the fabric making it truly yours.
Betty Smith is the place for you to find that piece to dye for (haha). I hope it will be the place you encounter the pair of denim that will last you a lifetime.