Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
Japan’s western-most prefecture, Okinawa-ken can be called a textile lover’s “paradise” because twelve of fourteen government-designated traditional crafts are in the area of cloth and textiles. However, as needs of Kimono have continuously declined, as spinners are decreasing their numbers due to aging, associations of traditional cloth weavers in the Ryukyus have been facing difficulties to sustain their activities. This time the difficulties are more multifaceted than the ones when the fine cloth they made was used as tax in kind. We want to understand current status of individual and groups’ activities of making traditional cloth by visiting communities of such textiles as Shuri-ori, Yomitan-hanaori, Ryukyu-kasuri, Urazoe-ori and Basho-fu in Okinawa Island, and Miyako-jofu and Yonaguni-ori in Yaeyama Islands. We try to find changes in materials, techniques, designs, patterns as well as weavers’ attitude and ideas toward making traditional cloth. Changes found, for example, in case of Miyako-jofu, are in making new designs on the classic plain cloth by applying float and twill techniques used in Shuri-ori. Another example is Urazoe-ori which is newly started to be made in 2006 with city government’s initiative. More important is that new directions could be seen in the way of weaver’s contribution to sustaining the making of traditional cloth. To simplify, we use a contrast between weavers of native islander and of migrant from mainland. They are the second or third generation engaged in making cloth both in classic and creative style, and apparently different in orientation from weavers of the first generation recruited around 1970s to be principal figures in sustaining traditional cloth making. We have no clear picture of new directions in traditional cloth making in the Ryukyus. However, we are certain that changes are taking place in a gradual tempo with the contribution of such new type of weavers.