February 16, 2015
Okinawa has a very rich textile culture and tradition.
Just take a look at silk: One type of silk weaving is called Shuri-Ori. It is a structure weave with floats. Another type of silk weaving is named after the area in which it originated, Haebaru. It is characterized by weavings with the double ikat pattern.
Plants fiber textiles such as ramie or basho used to be woven in many Okinawan islands and it was the common native material for everyday use.
There is also the refined and elegant “Jofu” and gorgeous “Bingata” dye along with Yomitan Hanaori, which is a complex combination of simple structures.
Apart from native materials like ramie and basho, cotton and silk used to be cultivated in the islands of Okinawa also.
I usually distinguish two categories of Okinawan textiles for me to understand:
refined textiles for aristocrats, mainly woven before 1870, and high quality kimonos produced after 1920.
textiles for people`s everyday use and for festivals.
An exhibition called “Yashirami – Tomei’s Collection” was held in January 2014 at Haebaru Cultural Center, which is all about the mourning attire.
And that is where I met Mr. Tomei, the owner of the collection. I also met Mr. Ooshiro who is a professional ikat tying expert. He studies old Yashirami fabrics and reproduces the exact patterns in new fabric. “Yashirami” means log cabin pattern in the Okinawan language.
I had already heard the word of Yashirami here and there and I was amazed to know that the log cabin pattern was so commonly woven in Okinawa and especially for mourning garments.
Here is an article from Ryukyu Shinpo newspaper about this exhibition, by an honorary professor, Jun Kataoka at Ryukyu University.
(this is my translation and I cannot be responsible for the translation’s quality)
“An exhibition regarding mourning attire and ceremonial garments of Hebaru-Hanaori is holing at Haebaru Cultural Center.
There are some precise descriptions about the rules to be in mourn of Okinawa, but it is not clear what the garment designing concept for mourning attire was. This show could not have happen without Mr. Tomei’s contribution and we have an opportunity to see the materials of being in mourn.
One year later, I was in Okinawa for a Basho workshop and I went to see Mr. Tomei and Mr. Ooshiro again.
I made sure to take my recorder because my local friend warned me that the Haebaru accent used by those two gentlemen is very difficult to understand. My friends were right!
At Mr. Tomei’s store where the meeting took place.