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 Brocade, called Yonaguni Ori in Japanese, 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 (a textile with raised flower patterns), Yonaguni Dotati (a textile with striped patterns), Yonaguni Shidadi (a textile with crest patterns) and Yonaguni Kagan-nubu (a textile with splashed patterns). The threads for the textile are dyed with dye extracted from the plants grown naturally on the island and are woven by hand. Usually, only one person carries out the whole production process, including designing, dyeing and weaving. The most popularly woven Yonaguni Hana Ori has geometric patterns of stripes and small flowers. The color and the design have changed with the times. The Dotati has a history of being worn at festivals together with the Kaganubu thin belt that has miuto kasuri patterns that were a symbol of a married couple. Do means the 'four body parts of the kimono', and tati means 'make'. Production of Yonaguni Ori takes time, and it is used not only to make kimonos and belts 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, during the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573). It is recorded in "The Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty", which are annual records of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, that the people in Yonaguni were already weaving using a loom in 1479. 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 weaving techniques and materials from foreign countries through trade, and sophisticated dyeing and weaving techniques developed in various ways. It became difficult to obtain the threads during and after the World Wars. There was a time when fishing nets were untied and used to make threads or the weaving itself had stopped. However, the Yonaguni-cho Traditional Craft Center was established in 1979 in order to revive Yonaguni Ori, and they have been handing down the rich weaving culture in Yonaguni to the next generation up to this day.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Designing The production process of Yonaguni Hana Ori is explained here. The materials are chosen based on the usage of the textile, and the design is decided by referring to traditional patterns.
  2. 2. 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, to prepare threads for the Kasuri, the warp threads and the ground threads are reeled. The warp threads are stretched out and marked according to the Kasuri design, and the marked parts are tied with cotton threads.
  3. 3. Dyeing the threads The threads are dampened thoroughly and beaten before they are put in the dyeing liquid. The heat of the dyeing liquid is gradually increased and the threads are boiled in the dye. Mordanting and dyeing is repeated if necessary. Mordanting 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 ground threads are dyed together to make the depth of the color even. However, they may be dyed separately, depending on the quality and usage of the threads. The dyed threads are wrung tightly and beaten for air oxidation, and then they are dried in the sun. The dye is extracted from the plants grown on the island including indigo, common garcinia, Clerodendrum inerme, yeddo hawthorn, shell ginger, Clerodendrum trichotomum and chinquapin. The dye for blue, yellow and red can be extracted from the appropriate plants but the way of making the dye differs depending on the plant.
    * Indigo: The collected indigo leaves are put in a tub with water and the leaves are left in water for two to three days. Then, the indigo leaves are taken out of the tub and lime is mixed into the water. Alcohol and the glutinous starch syrup are mixed into the precipitated indigo, and the mixture is left to ferment naturally.
    *Clerodendrum inerme: The leaves are washed and boiled in a pot for about thirty minutes. The leaves are boiled and strained through cloth three times. The boiled down, strained liquid becomes the dye.
  4. 4. Reeling the threads The threads are reeled using a reeling machine.
  5. 5. Warping The warp threads are sorted to the required length and number of threads and are pulled to an even tension.
  6. 6.Putting threads through the reed preliminarily Two threads are put though each eye of the reed.
  7. 7. 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 are adjusted.
  8. 8. Putting the threads through the heddle The warp threads that were wound are put through the heddle one by one.
  9. 9. Putting the threads through the flower heddle This is an important process where the threads are put through the flower heddle that creates the flower patterns.
  10. 10. Weaving The flower heddle is moved up and down to weave the textile. Normally, it takes one to two months for the weaving specialist to finish weaving a bolt.

Where to Buy & More Information

Yonaguni Dento Kogeikan

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