Bashōfu is a woven textile made from fibers of raw plantain bark (musa balbisiana), a species of wild banana. Highly favored as the ideal fabric for tropical climates because its light and airy texture prevents it from adhering to the skin during hot summer months, the cloth required for one bashōfu kimono requires approximately six months and 200 strands of plantain fiber to be completed. Throughout its history, bashōfu was essential to the lives of people during the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom and was also used to make garments and items of clothing for members of royalty and warriors.
Although the exact origin of bashōfu remains unknown, ancient records indicate that the fabric came into existence from the 12th to 13th centuries. Bashōfu thread making processes assumed its current present-day form as early as the 16th century. In 1648, the Ryukyu Kingdom designated the appointment of a “Bashō Chief” to promote and oversee production of the fabric. Many records also point to how bashōfu was used as gifts to China and Korea, and also as tributes to the Shimazu clan during the 16th and 17th centuries. Kijoka bashōfu was officially designated by the Japanese government as an nationally important intangible cultural asset on April 20th, 1974. It was designated as a prefectural traditional craft on June 11th, 1974, and also as a nationally designated traditional craft on June 9th, 1988.
|Place of manufacture||Ogimi Village|
|Main Products||Kimono and obi|
|Partnership name and date of establishment||Kijoka Bashōfu Business Cooperative Association, established March 21, 1984|
|Date designated by national||June 9th, 1988|
|Date designated by prefecture||June 11th, 1974|
|Source||Source: "An Outline of Promotion Strategies for the Craft Industry"; official blog of Kijoka Bashōfu Business Cooperative Association (https://bashofu.ti-da.net/e12020692.html)|
Up until WWII, the weaving of bashōfu took place in various parts of the prefecture but consistent production of the fabric is now only practiced in the community of Kijoka in Ogimi Village, which is located on the west coast of northern Okinawa. The bashōfu of Kijoka, characterized by its soft texture and invigorating kasuri patterns, is created by hand. Threads are handspun and fabric production processes have been carefully preserved according to tradition. Revival of bashōfu production began after the war in 1945, leading to the establishment of Kijoka Bashōfu Industry Association in 1955 and the resumption of full-scale bashōfu production. This was followed by the creation of Kijoka Bashōfu Business Cooperative Association in 1984, and the establishment of a production center (Ogimi Village Bashofu Center) in 1985. In addition to kimono, bashōfu has been incorporated into daily life products such as noren (Japanese entryway curtains) and tablecloths.