Okinawa Tourism Information:[YonahaMingu]fromYonaguniIslandOffersHeartwarmingFolkToolsMadewithKubaFanPalms

[Yonaha Mingu] from Yonaguni Island Offers Heartwarming Folk Tools Made with Kuba Fan Palms

post : 2019.12.29 16:00

Yonaguni Island is accessible by plane (or ferry) from Ishigaki Island, and is the southernmost island of Japan. With sheer cliffs that carve its coastlines, the island has a great expanse of untouched nature, and even among the numerous islands that make up the Yaeyama Islands, Yonaguni Island has an atmosphere that’s truly distinctive. A well-known specialty product of the island is Awamori stored in containers wrapped with leaves of Kuba or fan palms. Fan palms are easy to work with as they are thorn-free and found all across the island. Since long ago, these plants have been irreplaceable in making local arts and crafts as well as everyday tools, and they’ve also been used for ceremonies and rituals.

Yuu Yonaha of [Yonaha Mingu] is a Mingu (folk tool) craftsman from Yonaguni Island who holds workshops and lectures on and off island while making his crafts. He says, “I want to show people who don’t know about Kuba to see how marvelous they are.” Yonaha-san is very open and friendly, always pleasant and down to earth. Many people find themselves becoming interested and learning more about Kuba and Yonaguni Island because they’re immediately drawn to his charming personality.

Yonaha-san makes items like Kuba-gasa hats, hand baskets, brooms, fans, Uburu (container used to draw water) and others. These items have traditionally been made by the locals on the island for their everyday use. Yonaha-san says, “My grandfather and all the people around us made these, and so I wasn’t taught how to make them, I just naturally learned by watching everybody making them. The world today has become convenient and there are a lot of ‘things’ in our lives to make it so, but I thought it was a shame to let these Mingu, the tools made by the people through their wisdom and culture, to be lost forever. Even if they may change a little in their shape and form from the traditional items, I want to continue making Mingu that people can feel a little bit of Yonaguni Island from.”

In the past, people made Kuba tools on days with bad weather which prevented them from going outside to work on their farm. So when Yonaha-san chose to be a Mingu craftsman, many around him warned, “That’s something you do on rainy days and not something that you do as your main job. It’s not going to work out, you’re not going to be able to make a living.” Yonaha-san says, “But, it looks like I am able to,” as he chuckles.

Yonaha-san grows his own fan palms for the Kuba leaves he uses to create his Mingu tools. The Uburu water scoopers were used long time ago when waterworks hadn’t been laid and people had to go fetch water from wells. Now, these Uburu are used to scoop out water from the Hari dragon boats, a traditional event that takes place across the islands of Okinawa.

The handheld Kuba fans are not just light and easy to use, but because they’re wide, it can carry more wind, and the harder stem part of the fan is great to get to the hard to reach part of your back when you have an itch.

Yonaha-san shares, “I’ve always enjoyed making things since I was a child. I’m truly grateful that I’m blessed with the environment where I can do something that I enjoy as my job. I hope that when people see and hold the Mingu items I make, they’ll feel a sense of ‘Okinawa’ from them. In the future, I want to open a museum where visitors can touch and hold all of the items on display.”

The items by Yonaha Mingu seem to have something very special about them. When you hold them in your hand, the natural material feels comfortable, and you feel a heartwarming sensation. When you happen to come across them at the shop, hold them in your hand and feel their great charm.


Items Available at:
Dear Okinawa,
Address: 2F Connecting Terminal at Naha Airport, 150 Kagamizu, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 7:00 to 20:30

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko Tachi


沖縄県那覇市鏡水150 那覇空港際内連結ターミナル 2階