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Bringing Shuri Ori Textiles Closer to Our Lives; A Treasure of Okinawa Since the Period of the Ryukyuan Dynasty Period
post : 2019.10.19 23:00
Okinawa is often referred to as “a treasure trove of traditional crafts”. In particular, it has the highest number of dyed textiles designated by law (Japanese law related to the promotion of traditional craft production). There are various dyed textiles even just on Okinawa Island, and those from the northern, central, and southern regions all have very unique and distinctive features that have been carefully handed down the generations.
(Photo courtesy of Naha Traditional Textile Business Cooperative)
Shuri Ori textiles are produced mainly in the Shuri area in Naha City, and they are known to be of a refined and sophisticated quality. It is said that during the period of the Ryukyu Dynasty, only those in the upper class were permitted to wear the Shuri Ori, and among them, Hanakura Ori was reserved only for those of the highest social status, worn as summer kimono by the queen and princess of the royal family. Also, the Doton Ori were also textiles exclusively for the royal family and the high Shizoku class, and both of these textiles were woven only in Shuri.
The Naha Traditional Textile Business Cooperative was established in 1976 in order to hand down the techniques and methods of these exquisite textiles which were produced only in the Shuri area, where politics, economy, and culture during the Ryukyu Dynasty period were centered. The Naha Traditional Textile Business Cooperative is engaged in training new generations of weavers to carry on this culture, as well as in joint sales and purchase projects, technical advancement of its members, and aims towards economic independence.
Many textiles are made with different craftsmen who specialize in each of the stages in the production, like in the sketching and designing, yarn making, dyeing, weaving, and finishing. However, Shuri Ori is made at the hands of one craftsman throughout the whole process. Shuri Ori has a wide variety but can only be produced in small quantities for this reason. A Shuri Ori weaver shares one of its attractions, saying, “Because every step is done alone, there’s a certain level of freedom and this allows the weaver to express their own uniqueness.”
The production techniques of the high quality Shuri Ori textiles made exclusively for the royal family and the upper class have been handed down the generations across centuries. The kimono and obi sashes of Shuri Ori are made with precious materials and are refined, beautiful, and also expensive. Its prices often make Shuri Ori unaffordable for many people. This inspired four Shuri Ori weavers to get together to form “TeMa”, a textile accessory brand. The four weavers were inspired because they wanted Shuri Ori to be closer to the lives of more people, and offer people more opportunities to see the beauty of Shuri Ori.
No matter how small they are, textiles weaved with great care offer a great charm. TeMa creates accessories using small pieces of Shuri Ori textiles, like those shown above. With their feelings, “these fabrics are precious pieces made by hand,” they brought new life to the smaller pieces of Shuri Ori fabrics. In creating these pieces, they met and discussed ideas and designs numerous times with C-Suns, a popular accessory designer, and for each piece, natural stones accompany the textiles that match them best.
The round balls as pendants and as necklaces contain Masu (salt), which is said to cast away bad omens. What a beautiful lucky charm they are.
The traditional Shuri Ori are textiles with a long and distinguished history. Kimono and obi sashes may be a little out of reach for many of us in terms of price, but these accessories by TeMa are beautiful and more affordable for everyday use. Why not check them out?
Naha Traditional Textile Business Cooperative
Address: 2-64 Tobaru-cho, Shuri, Naha City, Okinawa
Also Available at:
Address: 2F Connecting Terminal at Naha Airport, 150 Kagamizu, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 7:00 to 20:30
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko Tachi