【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Yaeyama Minsaa (Okinawa Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Yaeyama Minsaa (Okinawa Prefecture)~


Yaeyama Minsaa



【Production area of Yaeyama Minsaa】

Ishigaki City, Taketomi Town, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture



【What is Yaeyama Minsaa?】

Textiles produced in Taketomi-cho, Yaeyama District, Okinawa (the southernmost town in Japan) and Ishigaki-shi, Okinawa.

‘Min’ means cotton and ‘saa’ means narrow belt.

The exact origin of Yaeyama Minsaa is unknown.

It is assumed that there was an obi with splashed patterns that was often used in Afghanistan, and that it was transmitted across the continent.

After it was introduced to the Yaeyama region, it was used as a square belt for the Ryukyu Kingdom’s national costume.


In April 1989, it was designated as a traditional craft.



【Features of Yaeyama Minsaa】

There are two main features.

・It is woven using “warp ridge weaving” using cotton thread as the material.

・”Stripes” and “kasuri” are used for the pattern.


The kasuri pattern is done by hand, and when indigo-dyed cotton threads are used, the contrast between navy blue and white is vivid.

Plants such as “Ryukyuai”, “Indian indigo”, “Cool” and “Fukugi” are used as dyes.

Recently, chemical dyes are also used in addition to vegetable dyes.


In addition, there are two types of weaving methods.

・A method of weaving using a reed on a takabata, a type of handloom

・A weaving method called “Tejime” that does not use a high loom


It is also interesting that the feel and texture of the obi when tightened depends on which method is used.



【History of Yaeyama Minsaa】

As mentioned above, there is a theory that it was introduced to the Yaeyama region across the continent from Afghanistan.

Actually, there is another theory.

The theory is that it came from India, which is said to be the birthplace of cotton.

Surviving documents reveal that cotton cloth was used during the Ryukyu Dynasty in the early 16th century.

Therefore, it is highly likely that Yaeyama Minsaa was already woven at that time.


In the Yaeyama area, there was a time when commuting marriages were the norm.

At that time, the Yaeyama Minsa was given as a gift from a woman who was proposed to a man as a proof of her love.

The characteristics of Yaeyama Minsaa are the kasuri pattern in which five squares and four squares are arranged alternately, and the yashirami pattern that looks like centipede legs.

In fact, this has a deep meaning and is a message from women to men.


What does that mean…

“Forever and ever, please visit often.”


Yaeyama Minsaa was originally made mainly in Taketomi Town, but now it is also made in Ishigaki Island.

For a while after its birth, it was only dark blue, but now it is woven in various colors.

In addition, it is woven not only with cotton thread, but also with threads such as “silk”, “musho” and “ramie”.

In addition to obi, there are a wide variety of products such as small items that can be used in daily life and business card holders, which are very popular with tourists.



【Production process of Yaeyama Minsaa】

①Arrange the warp threads

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


To determine the length and width of the obi to be woven, the craftsmen perform the following tasks.

・Calculate the required number of warps from the width of the obi

・Align the lengths of the kasuri threads (pattern), striped threads (white lines), and ground threads


②Kasuri tying

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


The preparatory work before indigo dyeing is called “kasuri kukuri”.

The kasuri threads are stretched in water, but the parts that remain white without being dyed with indigo are tied tightly with a string, hence the name.

Using a ruler with the size of the kasuri pattern printed on it, the craftsmen mark the areas where they don’t want the dye to seep in and tie it with string.

The thread used to be made of itobasho skin, but now it is common to use a vinyl string to tie it.


③Indigo dyeing

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


Soak the threads that have been knotted in water to remove dirt from the threads.

After that, the dehydrated threads are divided into three parts: warp ground threads, kasuri threads, and weft threads, which are then immersed in indigo dye for dyeing.

As for the method of dyeing, the work of “kneading for about 3 minutes → taking out” is repeated until the color is sufficiently deep.

This is due to the use of the characteristic of indigo dyeing that “it oxidizes and develops color when exposed to air”.


In the case of indigo dyeing, it is mainly Indian indigo that is used as a dye.



・Akamegashiwa, etc.


All of them will be dyed using Yaeyama plants.


④Untie Kasuri

Dyed kasuri threads are dried once.

After drying, carefully remove the tying cords one by one.

Finally, after adjusting the length of the warp base threads and the kasuri threads, this process is complete.


⑤Kachitami (put glue on)

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


Tension the thread so that the tension is even.

The reason for homogenizing the tension is to prevent the kasuri pattern from shifting during weaving, as cotton thread stretches easily.


The work is done outdoors because it is dried after applying glue.

After driving the stakes into the stone wall of the house, work while stretching the thread.

Depending on the length of the thread and the weather on the day of the work, it may take up to two days if it is long.

It takes time and effort, but it is indispensable because it makes the thread easier to weave and makes it beautiful even after weaving.


⑥Temporary reed threading

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


According to the design, the “warp base threads”, “kasuri threads” and “striped threads” are arranged and passed through the reed one by one.

After checking the weave width, the process is complete.


The reason why it is called “temporary” is that it is removed from the reed when weaving is started.


⑦Warp winding

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


After arranging the warps that have been threaded through the temporary reed, carefully wind them up while paying attention to “misalignment of the Kasuri”, “slack” and “kinks”.

By aligning the tension of the ground threads and Kasuri threads, the quality of the woven fabric becomes beautiful.


⑧Threading the heddle and threading the main reed

referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


After the wound warp is placed on the loom, the ends of the threads are passed through the heddles one by one, and then passed through the main reed.


Yaeyama Minsa is based on plain weave, but there are also variations in the weave depending on the method of weaving.

In addition, when hand-tightening, the weaving is done without passing through the reed, so there is no need to perform the main reed threading.



referring source:Suteki Terrace by Haseko


While using a “tohi”, a tool for passing the weft through the warp, the weft (indigo-dyed ground thread) is passed through the tensioned warp, and then woven.


The finished fabric is washed and finished.

Finally, if there is nothing after inspection, it is completed.





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