From the kimono to stole

Shigekazu Shigeta, an Oshima Tsumugi traditional craftsman

Oshima Tsumigi is one of the most popular traditional craft among the ladies of Kagoshima Prefecture. Oshima Tsumugi are silk goods original from Amami Oshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is called the queen of kimono, the traditional costume for Japanese ladies. It is also a status symbol for people who ware high class silk items. What I want to highlight is that Oshima Tsumugi is a Japanese traditional handicraft with a history of more than 1300 years.

What is so fascinating and valuable about Oshima Tsumugi? To discover that, we talked to Mr. Shigekazu Shigeta, the President of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi Traditional Craftsmen District from Kagoshima, and the representative director for Oshimatsumugi Shuen, Rencontre inc. Mr. Shigeta is also a traditional craftsman with an original Oshima Tsumugi style.

“I was born in Amami Oshima. When I was two years old, my family moved to Kagoshima. Here, in Kagoshima, my father started to work in making Oshima Tsumugi weave. He eventually became independent and established Shigeta Textile Company. I wanted to become an actor and went to Tokyo, but I injured my body and returned to Kagoshima. So, in 1980 I enrolled myself in Shigeta Textile Company," explained Mr. Shigeta about Oshima Tsumugi. But in 1998, their yarn provider became bankrupt and Shigeta Textile also came to an end. However, Mr. Shigeta established a new company: Oshimatsumugi Shuen.

Oshima Tsumugi items are expensive because many people are needed to produce them. "Nowadays, the Oshima Tsumugi wave, after going through a tightening machine for splash pattern preprocessing, it is dyed and waved. After that, the thread is untied and it goes through a loom to be finished. This tightening machine technique was adopted after the second half of Meiji Era (1868-1912)," explained Mr. Shigeta about the production features.

Oshimatsumugi Shuen had produced only items for men, but in 2003 their production category increased and they started to produce stoles. Their special characteristic is the richness in colors. "So far, most Oshima accessories have been made from remaining cloth or residual thread. However, this company is using only thread to produce small articles. Products are carefully checked before they reach the dyeing, waving and finishing stages," asserted Mr. Shigeta with strong confidence. "I want to think more carefully about the methods of producing our items. Isn't this the point where traditional craft items for the next generations starts?" said Mr. Shigeta, showing his future visions about Oshima Tsumugi craft.