【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Authentic Oshima Tsumugi (Kagoshima Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Authentic Oshima Tsumugi (Kagoshima Prefecture)~


Authentic Oshima Tsumugi



【Production area of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi】

Amami region, Kagoshima Prefecture



【What is Authentic Oshima Tsumugi?】

A textile produced in the Amami region of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The material is 100% silk, and the yarn is dyed before being tailored.

In addition, it is a plain weave in which the warp and weft are woven alternately, and it is done manually using a hand loom.


In addition to traditional mud dyeing and indigo dyeing, there are currently a wide variety of types such as white Oshima woven into white fabric and colorful Oshima.

Due to the increase in color variations, it has become possible to wear it at coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings.


It has been commercialized into various items such as Western clothes such as jackets and stoles, teddy bears and fans.

In order to meet the demands of the times, craftsmen are actively working on new fields.


In February 1975, it was designated as a traditional craft.



【Features of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi】

It is characterized by the tasteful colors and elaborate kasuri patterns that are created by the sharinbai and mud used for dyeing.

The more you use it, the more it adapts to your skin, and because it is light, it is easy to wear and does not wrinkle easily, so it has been loved by many people.


Since there are at least 30 manufacturing processes, it is not uncommon for it to take more than half a year to complete.

In addition, because each process is very complicated, excellent technology is required.


There are many traditional patterns, but we will list three below.


・Ippon Saigo



    ・White cloud


  • ・Tsugagami



【History of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi】

It originated around the 7th century, and by the beginning of the 18th century, it had taken shape as a full-fledged production area.

It seems that the technique was introduced to Kagoshima around the same time.


The exact origins are unknown, as historical details are scarce.

There is a record that in 1720, the Satsuma clan issued a ban on wearing tsumugi to people living in Amami, and told them to present tsumugi textiles as gifts.


Since ancient times, Amami Oshima has developed as a cornerstone of maritime transportation, and the cultures of various places have naturally entered the island.

In addition, the Amami region is warm and humid throughout the year, making it suitable for sericulture.

In fact, Amami’s sericulture and the clothes worn by the islanders are described with pictures in “Nantou Zatsuwa,” written by a samurai of the Satsuma domain.


In the 1900s, a tightening machine was developed.

Until then, the kasuri was tied by hand, but now it is possible to tie it using a machine.

This has made it possible to create unique kasuri patterns that cannot be found anywhere else.


It is said that due to the damage caused by the war and changes in lifestyle, the production volume has decreased to about 10% of the peak.

However, it is still passed down as a historical craft and continues to progress.



【Production process of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi】

①Design and textile design

referring source:Yamato


This is the process of thinking about the overall design, such as the color and the combination of warp and weft threads.

The craftsman draws on graph paper.



referring source:Yamato


Seaweed such as Igisu and Funori is the raw material for glue.

Using seaweed as a glue has the effect of making it easier to process and treat because it makes it harder for insects to stick to it, giving it a glossy look, and making it more elastic.


After preparing the required number of warps and wefts, glue is applied.

The warp and weft threads are grouped into 16 threads each, and after applying glue, they are dried thoroughly in the sun.


③Kasuri tightening process

referring source:Yamato


This is the process of tightening the silk threads that have been glued and prepared using a tightening machine.

Since it is a very strong work, it has long been said that “men use the tightening machine”.


The technique of weaving Kasuri elaborately using a tightening machine not only made it possible to weave patterns accurately, but also improved productivity.

The tightening machine was developed by Ieo Nagae and others from Amami Oshima.


④Sharinbai dyeing

referring source:Yamato


The bark and roots of the Sharinbai are boiled for about 14 hours to make a dye.

After that, dyeing is repeated about 20 times to dye the thread reddish brown.


⑤Mud dyeing

referring source:Yamato


It is a process that repeats 3 to 4 times the work of “after about 20 times of Sharinbai dyeing, one time of mud dyeing”.

The tannins of the sardines and the iron content of the mud react and combine to create a characteristic black color.


Some of the effects of mud dyeing are listed below.

・Difficult to wrinkle

・Difficult to burn

・It becomes difficult to get dirty

・Prevent static electricity


⑥Preparation processing

It is a preparatory process for weaving work, but the number of processes reaches 28.

For example, “warping,” “thread reeling,” and “pattern matching.”


⑦hand weaving

referring source:Yamato


Using a traditional Japanese treadle-operated tall loom, craftsmen weave by hand.

By loosening the kasuri and carefully matching the kasuri one by one with a needle, a vivid pattern appears.

It takes more than a month to weave a single roll, as even a single piece of warp is not allowed.

It is not uncommon for some designs to take several months or more.


⑧Kasuri adjustment

referring source:Yamato


After weaving about 7 cm, the warp threads are loosened and the kasuri pattern is adjusted using a needle.


⑨Product inspection

referring source:Yamato


The finished rolls are transported to the cooperative’s inspection site, where inspectors perform a final check of all 20 items.

Textiles that pass a rigorous inspection are labeled with a “quality label” and a “flag mark” to prove that they are authentic Oshima Tsumugi.





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