Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Passion for silk brings Japanese expert to Cambodia



Passion for silk brings Japanese expert to Cambodia

Kikuo Morimoto guiding visitors at IKTT’s farm.
Kikuo Morimoto guiding visitors at IKTT’s farm. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Passion for silk brings Japanese expert to Cambodia

Japanese native Kikuo Morimoto is passionate about silk. He began working with fabrics in 1971 and worked as a hand painter in Kyoto, using traditional Japanese dyeing methods. In 1983, he moved to Thailand where he taught rural communities traditional weaving techniques and how to dye cloth using natural pigments.

“In Thailand, one day I found one piece of traditional Khmer silk, it was such a beautiful and artistically complex cloth. I was extremely impressed and interested,” Morimoto recalled.

In 1995, Morimoto becape a consultant for a UNESCO weaving project, at that time, he traveled into Cambodia for his research. When he arrived in Cambodia, he traveled everywhere he could find that had a reputation for textiles.

Workers remove the yellow cocoon from the tree leaves.
Workers remove the yellow cocoon from the tree leaves. PHOTO SUPPLIED

“My first visit to a silk village was in Takeo province,” he said “My research continued from village to village with the aim of learning about the Khmer arts of traditional silk production. But, it seemed that everything related to the art of traditional Khmer silk production had disappeared because of war, especially during the Pol Pot regime that destroyed all Cambodia’s cultural traditions.”

Cambodia’s rich Khmer culture, including traditional Khmer silk production was brutally eradicated. During the last decade, most of Cambodian experts on silk production had passed away. “It is very difficult for us to go back and reconstruct the traditional techniques that produced the best Khmer silk,” Morimoto said.

In 1996, after conducting research in over 30 villages, Morimoto established the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) to revitalize Khmer traditional textiles. He began working with Cambodians to breed the original Khmer silkworms, which produce a yellow cocoon that is the raw material for producing high-quality silk.

“These golden cocoons are the first important raw material to make Khmer silk and are very special,” said Morimoto. “The cocoons are naturally yellow. Though China, Japan, and Vietnam can produce their silk on an industrial scale, the cocoons in those countries are white and of a mass-production quality.”

“The best Khmer silk was produced by hand, and utilised the traditional technique of producing natural dyes from plants, trees, leaves and resins,” Morimoto explained.

A woman processes the yellow cocoons.
A woman processes the yellow cocoons. PHOTO SUPPLIED

According to Touch Vannaran, a staff officer at IKTT, “today, IKTT not only produces its own woven silk, it also makes many souvenir items from Khmer silk and cotton.”

“There are more than 200 Cambodian people who are descended from the top Khmer silk makers. They come from Takeo province, Kampot and Siem Reap and work together today at IKTT’s 20-hectare farm.”

The IKTT forest village is located in Peak Sneng commune, Angkor Thom district, about 20 kilometres north of Siem Reap town.

“With its organic silkworm farm and the traditional methods we utilise to produce Khmer silk, IKTT is renowned in Cambodia’s tourism industry which has attracted many visitors to visit the farm – even the Japanese crown prince has stopped by to visit us,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Cambodian woman graduates from Japan’s NDA military academy

    A few years ago, Meach Sithyka Jessica became the first-ever Cambodian woman to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point, and since then her courage and determination has served as an inspiration for other Cambodian women. Similarly, Ly Chansocheata became the first Cambodian

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod