Shuri brocade Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

Shuri brocade Shuri ori

Versatile designs nurtured by the southern climate
Exquisite textile loved by the aristocracy of Okinawa


What is Shuri brocade ?

Shuri Ori refers to woven cloth produced in the main island of Okinawa. It falls into two types, Hiorimono and Monorimono, such as Hanaui, Hanakura Ori, Doton Ori, Kasuri and Minsa.
The Ryukyu Dynasty was active in trade with China and Southeast Asia from the 14th to the 15th century, when weaving techniques were introduced. Shuri Ori fabrics are woven with silk, cotton, hemp or Bash (banana fiber) threads, and dyed with plant dyes including Ryukyu Ai, Fukugi, Shibuki, Tekachi and Guru.
It is characterized by a wide variety of textiles suitable for the climate of Okinawa. Hanakura Ori and Doton Ori, which were woven only in Shuri (the then-capital of Ryukyu), were designated as specific fabrics for the royal family and aristocrats. Hanakura Ori is yarn-dyed Monorimono (figured fabric) which was dyed mainly solid colors such as yellow, blue and dark blue or shading, while another yarn-dyed figured fabric, Doton Ori, is abundant in color variations on an indigo ground. Doton Ori was used for men's clothes in the Ryukyu Dynasty period, but is transformed into Japanese kimono belts and accessories nowadays.


Shuri brocade - History Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

The Ryukyu Dynasty flourished in trade with China and Southeast Asia between the 14th and the 15th centuries, when weaving techniques were actively introduced. Originality fostered by the climate of Okinawa led to versatile textile styles.
In pursuit of color designs, elegance and magnificent impressions, the technique of weaving cloth dedicated to the royal family and aristocrats in Shuri (the then-capital of Ryukyu) was developed and enhanced.
Shuri Ori has been passed down for generations in the royal family and among upper-class women.
There is a long heritage of the tradition of Shuri Ori in Okinawa which was cherished even in the World War II when everything was lost, and it is still alive. Unique kasuri patterns that feature nature and animals mirroring Okinawa were derived from an invented Teyui Kasuri technique. Ryukyu Kasuri is believed to be one of the roots of Japanese kasuri and has impinged on other kasuri production regions.

General Production Process

Shuri brocade - General Production Process Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

  1. 1. Design Various textiles woven in Okinawa are collectively called Shuri Ori, such as Hanakura Ori, Hanaui, Doton Ori and Minsa. The following describes the production process of kasuri that had an impact on kasuri production nationwide. It is said that Shuri Kasuri is precursor of kasuri by virtue of its unique Teyui technique.
    Kasuri designs are decided based on Miezucho which is a traditional design book edited by an artist for the royal family in Shuri. Combined with contemporary ethos, a basic traditional design pattern is chosen.
  2. 2. Itokuri (thread feeding) Itokuri is thread feeding that is carried out after removing impurities, boiling the threads in hot water to strengthen warps, and sizing them.
  3. 3. Seikei (warping) Seikei is formatting the number and the length of threads to weave a bolt of cloth.
  4. 4. Kasuri kukuri Kukuri is a process of binding parts to be dyed together manually with vertical threads (warps) stretched according to the design. Shimebata (squeeze loom) is used to weave kasuri featuring complicated, delicate patterns. The number and the length of horizontal threads (wefts) depends on the design pattern. The process steps include setting up threads on the frame wider than a bolt of cloth, dyeing threads according to the design, and binding manually.
  5. 5. Dyeing Shuri Ori fabrics are dyed with plant-dyes that are mainly found in Okinawa, such as Ryukyu Ai, Sharinbai, and Fukugi. Originated in the Southeast Asian countries, the plant for Ryukyu Ai (Assam indigo) is grown in Okinawa. Indigo plants have been believed from ancient times to provide insect-repelling effects and utilized in clothing and commodities.
    Indigo dyeing involves a process called “aidate" that imparts water solubility to indigo leaves to make indigo dyeing solution. The indigo solution obtains dyeability when indigo flowers turn red making the solution bluish. Aidate requires a week in summer and two weeks in winter.
    The hanks of bound threads are immersed in the indigo dye vat and rubbed gently with hands, letting the dye impregnate. Drying dyed threads in the direct sunlight is important after wrung and oxidized with air. Dyeing is a repeated process of the same steps, which requires patience. Shuri Ori also boasts golden color which is extracted from the bark of common garcinia.
  6. 6. Preparation for weaving Unbound, dyed threads are then aligned and stretched on the loom according to the design pattern in sequence (running kasuri threads, warp threads and ground threads, temporary reeding, winding, heddle drawing, and reeding). Aligned weft threads are spooled around the tube which fits into the shuttle.

Where to Buy & More Information

Naha Traditional Craft Center

Naha Traditional Craft Center Photo:Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau

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