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- Eisa Tour during Obon in Okinawa
An opportunity to learn the handmade crafts of Yonaguni Island, the westernmost point of Japan
post : 2017.09.11 07:00
Yonaguni Ori (weaving) is one of the traditional crafts of Yonaguni Island – the island known for the latest sunset in the country.
One weaver handles the entire process including dyeing threads, design and, of course, weaving. The techniques done by female weavers are amazingly detailed. I was interested to know what kind of emotional content goes into their handmade works in their studios so near the border between Japan and Taiwan.
“Yonaguni Ori is weaved from reflections of waves on the warp and blue skies on the weft, with the whole finished with love” described a Yonaguni Town Traditional Weaving Association staff member with metaphor.
A description of Yonaguni dyeing and weaving is mentioned in a 500-year-old book. Ryukyu Kingdom restored order after the Battle of Oyakeakahachi that took place on Ishigaki Island in 1500. When Yonaguni was subjugated by the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1522, the same strict taxes were levied on them as in other areas. It was written that taxes collected could take the form of Yonaguni Ori. Back then, weaving was done mainly in cotton or hemp. During material shortages during and after battles, weavers would sometimes have to unravel fishing nets for their threads.
Yonaguni Ori techniques have a much background in history and have been modified over the centuries, still retaining the vivid yellows and geometric patterns characteristic of Okinawa. The Ryukyu Kingdom incorporated many new techniques and materials from overseas, making them their own while improving them gradually over time.
Yonaguni Island had constant contact with countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Original Yonaguni techniques fused with those of other countries in the Pacific region.
Out of the many techniques that came out of Yonaguni, the kasuri (splash) and monori (embossed) patterns are in use even today. Hanaui (flower patterns) were typically sent as gifts to Shuri royal government. The material called ukiori (brocade) has delicate patterns and colors. People often say that you can see the weavers through the cloth against the sunlight.
Graceful hanaui and dutatii with their simple geometric patterns represent Yonaguni Ori well. The patterns are often seen in local cultural events such as harvest festivals, they are even used on business kariyushi wear.
Shidadii is a featured technique of the island. The colors of leaves from the fukugi or sharinbai trees and mud blend to create exotic textiles.
Yonaguni Kagannubuu, the narrow cloth belt, has miuto mochi designs down the center. The pattern symbolizes a married couple and the belt is woven with love.
Yonaguni Traditional Craft Center was built in 1979 to restore the art of Yonaguni Ori, which had nearly died out after the war.
Yonaguni Ori is made with island nature by island people. Please visit the island and see this beauty.
Yonaguni Traditional Craft Center
Address: 175-2 Yonaguni, Yonaguni Town, Yaeyama-gun, Okinawa
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30-17:30, Saturday 8:30-17:00
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Noriya Fukuda