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Find Stencil-Dyed T-Shirts and Bags Handmade by a Close-Knit Family at [Tezukuri Kobo KUMA] on Taketomi Island
post : 2020.11.23 07:00
Taketomi Island is located in the Yaeyama Islands, about 6 km south of Ishigaki Island, taking only about 10 minutes on a rapid ferry.
Surrounded by coral reefs, on this small island with a circumference of about 9 km and a population of about 350, are three villages, "Ainota" to the east, "Inota" to the west, and "Naji" to the south. With a nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent from the scenery of Okinawa from the bygone eras, it continues to fascinate visitors to the island.
From Akayama Park, where the Nagomino-to tower is located in the west, a short walk south along the white coral reef road will lead you to a house with a red tile roof on which a charming Shisa is perched. This "Tezukuri Kobo (handmade studio) KUMA" operated by the Kumagai couple.
Mikio Kumagai is originally from Ishigaki Island and Chie-san from Niigata Prefecture, and they moved to Taketomi Island from Chie-san's hometown of Niigata Prefecture in 2017, and opened this studio in February 2018. They offer stencil-dyed T-shirts and bags, as well as other items like candles. They also run workshops for customers to experience handmaking their own items.
As you walk on to the premises and to the right side of the stone entrance or the Hinpun, (called Maeyashi in Taketomi Island), you will find the sliding door to the shop. The place gives a feel like visiting a grandparent’s house out in the country. Inside, you’ll find the shop filled with merchandise like dyed T-shirts, bags, candles, etc. all made by the Kumagaya couple.
Actually, there’s a big helper behind the Kumagai couple's dyeing work.
Mikio-san's father Itsuo Kumagai, is an illustrator and a huge supporter of the couple, and is the reason why the couple started stencil-dyeing.
Itsuo-san (84 years old) has created over 300 paper-cutting works based on folk tales and fairy tales that have been handed down on the islands of Okinawa. There are various patterns that Itsuo-san makes for his son and his wife, from motifs with Okinawan creatures and plants to Dogu clay figurines playfully proposed by the young couple.
"Whatever he’s working on, my dad is quick and precise," says Mikio-san. "When I hand him a pattern and ask for a design, he’ll have it finished in a couple of hours. If we were to work on the same thing, it would take many times longer. My father's work always really impresses me, "says Chie-san. Itsuo-san sat silently working beside the smiling couple.
I had the opportunity to talk with Itsuo-san as he took a break from his work.
"When I was working at a design office in Tokyo, I was working on projects with a major department store, and that’s where I was really trained to work fast. I worked on so many projects and each one was required to be done in a very short time. Other companies saw the speed and quality of our work and we were getting a lot of orders for various projects. I was working too much, and I fell ill. After I got sick, I started to work at my own pace while traveling abroad. I was offered work for Ishigaki Island hotels for their brochures, and wall art for their rooms, and that’s how I came to live on Ishigaki," says Itsuo-san.
Chiori-chan (6 years old), the eldest daughter of Mikio and Chie Kumagai, also loves to draw.
The energy to create has been passed down from Itsuo-san to his son, Mikio-san, and then to his daughter, Chiori.
The stencil-dyed works of "Tezukuri Kobo KUMA" are all hand-dyed one by one, and also are available for purchase at their online shop. I hope you’ll visit the site to find a very special item just for you.
[Tezukuri Kobo KUMA]
Address: 353 Taketomi, Taketomi Town, Yaeyama, Okinawa
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00
Closed: Sundays (and other irregular days)
*To prevent the spread of COVID-19, stencil-dyeing and candle-making workshops are not available at the present time (September 2020).
Online Store: https://www.creema.jp/c/handmadkuma/item/onsale
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Akiko Mizuno