Yonaguni brocade Photo:Okinawa Prefecture

Yonaguni brocade Yonaguni ori

Simple beauty born on a small southern island
Traditional gifts to the Ryukyu royal government


What is Yonaguni brocade ?

Yonaguni Ori is a textile produced in Yonaguni-cho, Yaeyama Gun, Okinawa Prefecture. The characteristic of Yonaguni Ori is the simple beauty of the textile that is dyed and woven by hand in the distinctive climate. The textile is divided into the following types depending on the weaving technique: Yonaguni Hana Ori (the Hagi Orimono with floating flower patterns), Yonaguni Dotati (a textile with striped patterns), Yonaguni Shidadi (a textile with intricate patterns) and Yonaguni Kagan-nubu (a textile with the Kasuri patterns). Each textile is dyed with the dye extracted from the plants grown naturally on the island and woven by hand. Only one person carries out the whole production process, including designing, dyeing and weaving.
The most popularly woven Yonaguni textile is the small striped patterns and the geometric patterns from which the small flower patterns emerge. The color and the design have changed with the times. The Dotati requires four Do (the Do means the body part and the Tati means the cut). It has a history of being worn at festivals together with the Kaganbu (a thin belt), which is woven with the pattern called the Miuto Kasuri that represents a couple. The production of Yonaguni Ori takes time and it is used not only for the kimono and the belt specific to the island but also for other accessories including towels, ties and bags.


It is said that Yonaguni Ori started in the 15th century, which is equivalent to the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573). It was recorded in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (also known as the True Record of the Joseon Dynasty) that the people in Yonaguni were already weaving using a loom in 1479. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty are the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. The castaways from Korea reported about Yonaguni.
Yonaguni Ori was also presented to the Ryukyu Royal government as a gift in the latter half of the 16th century and only the officials were allowed to wear the textile. The Ryukyu Royal government actively brought in the weaving techniques and materials through trade with foreign countries so sophisticated dyeing and weaving techniques developed in various ways.
It became difficult to obtain the threads during the World Wars. There was a time when trawling net was used to make threads or the weaving itself was stopped. However, the Yonaguni-cho Dento Kogei Kan (the Yonaguni-cho Traditional Craft Center) was established in 1979 in order to revive Yonaguni Ori and they have handed down the rich weaving culture in Yonaguni to the next generation.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Designing The production process of Yonaguni Hana Ori is explained here. The materials have to be chosen carefully depending on the usage of the textile and the design is decided by referring to the traditional patterns.
  2. 2. The Kasuri Kukuri (tying the threads) The threads are soaked in hot water to remove starch or other impurities so that the threads can be dyed evenly. Then, the Ito Kuri (winding the threads) is carried out in the case of the Kasuri patterns. The Kasuri threads and the Jiito (foundation threads) are wound. The Kasuri threads are stretched out and marked according to the design. The marked parts are tied with cotton threads.
  3. 3. Dyeing the threads The threads are made wet thoroughly and hammered before they are put in the dye liquid. The temperature of the dye liquid has to be brought up gradually to ‘cook’ the threads. The Baisen (color fixing) and the Senshoku (dyeing) have to be repeated as required. The Baisen is to help the plant color to settle and to bring out the color by soaking the threads in the mordant.
    In the case of the Kasuri patterns, the Kasuri threads and the Jiito are dyed together to make the depth of the color even. However, they are also dyed separately, depending on the quality of the threads and the usage of the threads and the woven textile.
    The dyed threads are hammered lightly to create air oxidation and then they are dried in the sun.

    The dye is extracted from the plants grown on the island including indigo, the Fukugi (happiness tree), the Mitofu, the Sharinbai (Rhaphiolepis indica var. umbellate), the Geto (Alpinia zerumbet), the Kubotakusagi (Clerodendrum inerme (L.) Gaertn.) and the Wakanoki. The dye for blue, yellow and red can be extracted from the appropriate plants but the making of plant dye differs * Indigo
    The collected indigo leaves are put in a tub with water and the leaves have to be left in water for 2 – 3 days. Then, the indigo leaves are taken out of the tub and lime is mixed in the water. Alcohol and the glutinous starch syrup are also mixed into the precipitated Ai (indigo) and the mixture is left to ferment naturally.*The Mitofu
    The leaves of the Mitofu have to be washed and boiled in a pot for about 30 minutes. The water is boiled with the leaves three times and strained through cloth. The boiled down and strained liquid becomes the dye.

    depending on the plant.
  4. 4. The Ito Kuri (winding the threads) The threads are wound using a machine.
  5. 5. The Seikei (warping) The warp threads are sorted to the required length and the required number of threads. Then, the threads are pulled to an even tension.
  6. 6. The Kari Osa Doshi (putting through the threads preliminarily) Two threads are put though each eye of the Osa (reed).
  7. 7. The Tatemaki (winding the warp threads) The warp threads are wound with paper in between. The tension in the threads should be even all the time. If the Kasuri pattern comes out of place in any way, the threads have to be adjusted.
  8. 8. The Soko Doshi (putting the threads through the heddle) The warp threads that were wound have to be put through the Soko (heddle) one by one.
  9. 9. The Hana Soko Gake (putting the threads through the Hana Soko) This is a process to put the threads through the Hana Soko (the flower heddle). It is an important process to create the flower patterns.
  10. 10. Weaving The Hana Soko is moved up and down to weave the textile. Normally, it takes one to two months for the weaving specialist to finish weaving a roll of Yonaguni Ori.

Where to Buy & More Information

Yonaguni Dento Kogeikan

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