Traditional Japanese embroidery came to Japan from China through Korea by the Silk Road 1600 years ago and since it has been a fundamental part of Japan’s culture.
With the introduction of Buddhism many embroidered religious images arrived to Japan. Japanese embroidery developed from China’s Sui and Tang dynasty embroidery. Fragments of Japanese embroidery exist back to 622, the 30th year of Empress Suiko’s reign. The ShOsoin (built in 756) collection of textiles has pieces which were embroidered using untwisted thread, embroidered in the sashi-nui style (long and short stitches).
The Kamakura period (1185-1333) show a great interest in embroidery, that was used by commoners for religious images.
During the early Heian Period, Japanese embroidery was primarily used for decorating the costumes of the Ladies of the Court. During these early stages, shishu was exclusively available to this very select group; only the highest ranks of society could afford such expensive work.