Miyako hemp cloth Photo:Okinawa Convention&Visitors Bureau

Miyako hemp cloth Miyako jofu

The smooth texture of linen and a waxy luster
A delicate Kasuri pattern dyed with the Ryukyu Ai emerges from the surface of the cloth

Description

What is Miyako hemp cloth ?

Miyako Jofu is a textile produced in Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture. It is counted as one of the four major Japanese Jofus. It is the highest quality Aizome (Indigo dye) linen textile that has been designated as an important intangible cultural asset of Japan.
The characteristics of Miyako Jofu are the fine Kasuri pattern woven by the fine threads and the smooth and lustrous texture that has a waxy appearance. The fibers for the fine threads are pulled out from the Choma (ramie) one by one by hand so the textile woven with these threads has a good air permeability and is strong enough to last for three generations.
The Choma, which belongs to the Urticaceae family and is a perennial plant, naturally grows in Okinawa. It grows in approximately 40 days and can be harvested approx. 5 times a year. It is not rare to take a couple of years to finish a roll of textile from the stage of spinning threads. The warp threads are dyed with the Ryukyu Ai repeatedly using the Kukurizome (tie-dye) method. 1,120 or more threads are required for the warp. Weaving takes longer than 3 months and when the textile is woven, you can see the tortoise shell pattern or flower pattern emerging in the fine white Kasuri pattern. The Kinuta Uchi (hammering the cloth) is the final process, which gives Miyako Jofu its soft and lustrous texture.

History

Miyako hemp cloth - History Photo:Okinawa Convention&Visitors Bureau

It is believed that linen textiles using the Choma (ramie) have been produced in the region surrounding Miyakojima since the 15th century. When a Ryukyu ship full of gifts to the Ming Dynasty was about to sink due to the damage caused by a severe typhoon that hit the ship on its way, a man in Miyakojima dived into the sea and fixed the ship. Owing to the man’s bravery, the ship could sail safely and nobody was harmed. The Ryukyu King praised the man’s bravery and assigned him as the Toikiribozu (a funeral priest). The man’s wife was so pleased that she presented the linen textile to the Royal government. This is regarded as the beginning of Miyako Jofu. Miyako Jofu was dedicated to the Ryukyu Royal government for approximately 20 years after that.
After the Satsuma Domain started to rule Ryukyu in 1609, they introduced a poll tax from 1637. So, it became a duty of the Ryukyu women to produce Miyako Jofu and present the textile to the government. The textile was produced under the strict supervision of the officers and became well-known widely as Satsuma Jofu, a highest quality linen textile. When the poll tax was abolished, a textile union was formed to prevent the quality of the textile from deteriorating. They kept the quality of the textile as high as possible and the production peak came between the Taisho period (1912 – 1926) and the beginning of the Showa period (1926 – 1989). Production of the Miyako Jofu declined during World War II when Okinawa was governed by America. Currently, the people in Okinawa are giving high priority to develop successors who will carry on production of the textile using the traditional techniques.

General Production Process

Miyako hemp cloth - General Production Process Photo:Okinawa Convention&Visitors Bureau

Where to Buy & More Information

Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

See other Woven textiles

See items made in Okinawa