Kyo stone work Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

Kyo stone work Yomitanzan minsa

Brilliant colors of a tropical country
Beautiful geometric patterns


What is Kyo stone work ?

Yomitanzan Minsa is a textile produced in the region around Yomitanson, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa prefecture. Min means cotton and Sa means a narrow belt. This kind of narrow belt was made in various regions in Okinawa from ancient times. Basically, Minsa is an Ai (indigo) dyed narrow belt (width approximately 10cm) but the production technique and the pattern vary depending on the region. Yomitanzan Minsa is referred to as the Gushi Hanaori. The weaver picks the warp threads using a bamboo skewer where the pattern should be raised. Yomitanzan Minsa is a textile produced with this Gushibana technique.
The characteristics of Yomitanzan Minsa are that it is a ribbed fabric woven with dyed cotton threads with brilliant, tropical colors and embossed patterns created by the Monbo (pattern stick) or the Hana Soko (flower heddle). The patterns include the Gushibana, the Soko Hana and the Kasuri (produced by tie-dyeing). The textile is woven with those patterns and additional patterns including a striped pattern. The dye used for Yomitanzan Minsa is extracted from the plants grown naturally in the region, for example, Ryukyu Ai (indigo), Fukugi (happiness tree) and Sharinbai (Yeddo Hawthorn).


Kyo stone work - History Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

It is assumed that Yomitanzan Minsa was first produced around the same period as Yomitanzan Hanaori. Ryukyu was trading actively with China and southeastern Asian countries from ancient times.
It is also assumed that the techniques to produce the Kasuri patterns and the raised patterns, which were assumed to be the origin of Yomitanzan Minsa and Yomitanzan Hanaori, were brought back from China and southeastern Asian countries in the 15th century.
The cultivation of cotton started in 1611 when Shinjo Gima brought it back from the Satsuma Domain. The area under cultivation was relatively small and the harvest was also small so cotton was regarded as valuable. The origin of Yomitanzan Minsa is said to be when women started to produce the narrow belt for their family or loved ones, expressing their deep affection by making it. However, the production of Yomitanzan Minsa stopped for a while in the mid-Meiji period (1868 – 1912). After that, Yomitanzan Minsa and Yomitanzan Hanaori almost became things of the past. Then, Sada Yonamine (a dyeing and weaving artisan) and local village people started a movement to revive the local crafts based on the stories from the village elders and the festival garments that survived the war. This movement started in 1964 and lasted approximately 10 years.

General Production Process

Kyo stone work - General Production Process Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

  1. 1. Design The design is drawn on graph paper using colored pencils. Jinbana (Rhododendron), Kajimayabana (pinwheel-shaped flower) and Ojibana (fan-shaped flower) are the plants naturally grown in Okinawa and the basic flower patterns for Yomitanzan Minsa. The basic patterns are arranged to make approximately 30 kinds of geometric patterns. These geometric patterns are combined with the Kasuri patterns and the striped patterns to make the design for Minsa.
  2. 2. The Kasuri Kukuri (Kasuri tie-dye) Yomitanzan Minsa uses the dyed cotton threads for the warp and the weft threads. The Kasuri Ito (the Kasuri threads) are made by the Tekukuri (tie-dyeing by hand). The warp threads that become the Kasuri threads are starched and pulled before being dried. Then, the parts that have to be left white are tied with cotton threads according to the design. Cotton threads are used because the fiber in cotton threads shrinks when they are wet so the dye does not permeate inside. Tying widths are 8mm, 6mm and 1cm with an even space in between and the threads are dyed after tying is finished. The dye is extracted from the local plants including Fukugi (happiness tree), Sharinbai (Umbellata), Kuru (China root), Shii (Japanese chinquapin) and Ryukyu Ai (indigo). The dyed threads are dried well and the cotton threads that tied the threads are removed. Cotton threads tend to stretch so the dyed threads have to be carefully sorted into equal lengths. The threads are starched and pulled to keep the Kasuri patterns in their correct positions.
  3. 3. The Itokuri (winding the threads) The dyed threads are wound into a skein before they are wound around a bobbin.
  4. 4. The Seikei The length and the width of Minsa are sorted in this process. The warp threads Jiito (foundation threads) and the Kasuri Ito are sorted into the necessary number of threads and the length that were calculated in accordance with the width of the Minsa. 320 warp threads are required for a width of 10cm.
  5. 5. The Kari Osa Doshi (temporarily putting threads through reed) The dyed threads are put through the Osa (reed) of the weaving width. The warp threads (Jiito and the Kasuri Ito) and the striped threads are put through the Osa one by one. The weaver checks the width of the textile. This reed is removed when the actual weaving starts so this process is referred to as the Kari Osa Doshi (temporarily putting threads through reed). The Hon Osa Doshi is done after the Soko Doshi.
  6. 6. The Tatemaki (winding the warp) The warp threads that were put through the Osa are wound while the tension in the threads is carefully adjusted. The tension in the threads is very important in this process so the strength to wind the threads should be even at all times. When the Kasuri threads and Jiito are pulled evenly, the beautiful Minsa can be produced.
  7. 7. The Soko Doshi (putting threads through the heddle) Yomitanzan Minsa uses the Takahata loom. The warp threads that were wound in a roll are put on the loom and the Osa is removed. The warp threads are divided into front and back threads and put though the Sokome (eye of heddle) one by one. The weft threads are put through between the warp threads as the Soko moves up and down and leaves the space for the weft threads. This is how the beautiful Yomitanzan Minsa is woven. The threads are put through before the Hon Osa Doshi if the Hana Soko is used.
  8. 8. The Hon Osa Doshi After the threads have been put through the Soko, the threads are put through the Hon Osa again. The threads are put through the Osa one by one in the same manner as in the Kari Osa Doshi process.
  9. 9. Weaving The Gushibana technique is used for Yomitanzan Minsa. The warp threads in the parts of the pattern that are to be raised are picked by hand using a bamboo skewer. The floral and striped patterns seem to be raised from the surface when the textile is woven. This is one of the characteristics of Yomitanzan Minsa. The hand-throwing shuttle is used for the weft threads and the Hana Soko or the Monbo is used for the pattern. The woven Minsa is washed and pulled to neatly arrange the width. The production of Yomitanzan Minsa is completed after the inspection.

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Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

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