Kyushu is home to many traditional arts and crafts.
What’s Oshima Tsumugi?
Amongst Japan’s traditional crafts, the Oshima Tsumugi weave is one of the varieties of brocade which is truly representative of Japan. The island of Amami Oshima, located in between Kyushu and Okinawa, served as an intermediary trade spot for China and Japan 1300 years ago. It essentially acted as a maritime silk road. In this island the Yeddo Hawthorn tree grew in abundance, a raw material used for dyeing. Also, being a southern island, it was a natural habitat for silkworms. At that time, a splash pattern dyeing technique had arrived from India and China which involved dyeing threads in various different colors before weaving them, and then spinning the silkworm’s silk threads in a particular way to creating original designs. Visit our recommended items.
What’s Doro-zome, the mud dyeing ?
In the 17th century, this small island was under the rule of the Satsuma clan of Kagoshima, and the Oshima Tsumugi weave was produced to serve as offerings to the clan’s ruler, thus making him very rich. When Oshima Tsumugi became well known all across Japan, the Satsuma clan prohibited the islanders from wearing Oshima Tsumugi garments, and this increased the clan’s riches even more. The islanders continued to wear Oshima Tsumugi in secret, and in order to not get caught by government officials they often hid the garments in the mud. However, the high amount of iron and Yeddo Hawthorn mixed into the island’s mud generated a chemical reaction which dyed the cloth, and transformed it into a robust fabric with a velvety polish. Visit our recommended items.
Enjoying Oshima Tsumugi
It is said that Oshima Tsumugi is the only weave in the whole world which employs this mud dyeing technique. Nowadays it is achieved with a special dye which contains the precise amount of iron needed, and the weaving technique has advanced quite a lot. Many people adore its high quality brocade, and its robustness grants it great value as a family item which can be passed down for 3 generations, from mother to daughter to granddaughter. Today we find less opportunities to wear kimonos in our lives, so it is also being used to weave stoles and accessories, turning it into fashionable items which can be enjoyed by everyone. Another of Oshima Tsumugi’s characteristics is the lovely sound its cloth makes when rubbed together, comforting and glossy. Visit our recommended items.