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  • Writer's pictureAmy S

Exploring Okinawa | Ryukyu Kasuri & Haebaru Hana-ori Textiles

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

When it comes to my time in Okinawa, it's extremely important to me to see and experience all of the unique things that make Okinawa so special. Textiles, a central part to trading in the old Ryukyu Kingdom, is definitely one of those things. Here, we explore Ryukyu Kasuri, in the heart of Haebaru on the Southern part of the main island of Okinawa.

Ryukyu is the island chain of present-day Okinawa and Kasuri, which is also known as the ikat, originated from India and spread throughout Southeast Asia. Eventually finding it's way to Okinawa in the 14th or 15th Century. Back then, the islands were known as the Ryukyu Kingdom and had a rich and thriving trade center for Eastern Asia. Gradually those trade

items, such as the ikat, turned into their own distinctive style of textiles, which we now know today as Ryukyu Kasuri.

For Haebaru Hanaori, they are a designated traditional craft recognized by the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. Hana-ori literally translates to flowe

r-weaving, and was passed down from mother to daughter beginning in the Meiji period (1868-1912). According to the elders, Hana-ori hand clothes were woven and given to soldiers on their way to battle. in 1914 the Haebaru Women's Supplementary School was founded by the village. Many women mastered the art of the hana-ori, shamon-ori (twill weaving), and as well as other techniques. Eventually, through their practice they developed their own original processes such as Uki-ori (which produces raised designs on the fabric). After WWII, the surivivors scraped together any material they could find and started weaving again. And his is so important to handing down generational knowledge of these unique textiles. Which is why, today, you can still find people practicing their weaving right here in Haebaru town.

If you ever get the chance to stop by, it's definitely worth a stop. You can take a stroll down the Kasuri Road around Haebaru with its unique designs decorating the street. Stop in the visitors center, and if you're lucky, watch the weaving process. They also have a gift shop if you'd like to get a little souvenir or even a really nice hand-woven shirt showing off Okinawa history.

Location: Ryukyu Kasuri Hall, 157 Motobu, Haebaru-town, Okinawa 901-1112, Japan

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