Okinawa Craft Industry Promotion CenterOkinawa Craft Industry Promotion Center

Kumejima Tsumugi

Brief Summary and History

Kumejima tsumugi is made by hand spinning silk floss from silk cocoons and dyeing them using a unique mud mordant based technique with the abundant use of plant dyes from native species that grow naturally in the islands, such as fukugi (Garcinia subelliptica), tekachi (Rhaphiolepis indica var. umbellata), and hibiscus, or yuna in the Okinawa language. As the oldest type of tsumugi in Japan and also the oldest form of kasuri in Okinawa, Kumejima tsumugi is defined by a durability refined over centuries of traditionally honed technique. Its robust color tones, elegant and supple texture render superior comfort, making it a highly prized fabric.

Origins of Kumejima tsumugi are thought to have begun in the late 15th century, when Donohiya, head of the Ryukyu Kingdom servantry, introduced sericultural techniques from Ming Dynasty China. Advancements in production techniques occurred in the first half of the 17th century, via the contributions of Hiromoto Sakamoto and Kagetomo Tomoyose, two envoys dispatched by the Ryukyu Kingdom. The fabric became an important tribute to be paid in lieu of taxes and was produced under the strict supervision of kingdom officials, a practice that remained until land tax reform was carried out in 1903. Designated as a traditional craft by the prefecture on June 11th, 1974, and as a national traditional craft by the government of Japan on February 17th, 1975, Kumejima tsumugi was recognized as an important intangible cultural property and accorded cultural heritage protection by the government of Japan on September 2nd, 2004.

Basic data

MaterialHandspun thread from silk floss
Place of manufactureKumejima Island
Main ProductsKimono and obi
Partnership name and date of establishmentKumejima Island Tsumugi Business Cooperative Association, January 16th, 1970
Date designated by nationalFebruary 17th, 1975
Date designated by prefectureJune 11th, 1979
Source*Source: "An Outline of Strategies for the Promotion of the Craft Industry"

Place of manufacture

Kumejima Island

Produced on the island of Kume, Kumejima tsumugi is produced in observance of tradition where a single weaver is responsible for all stages of fabric production from start to finish. Ravage sustained from WWII reduced production of tsumugi to an output enough for just 150 kimono in 1956, but concerted efforts at the national, prefectural and community levels allowed the art of tsumugi to flourish, making it the second largest industry in Kumejima next to sugarcane cultivation. In 1970, the industry received a boost through the establishment of Kumejima Tsumugi Business Cooperative Association, as well as the designation of Kumejima tsumugi as an important intangible cultural property of Okinawa prefecture in 1977. Tsumugi production processes became organized through the construction of Kumejima Traditional Craft Center in 1975, which was followed by the building of central facilities for mud and color dyeing. Thread binding and dyeing processes were further supported by the launch of Ueshiro Yuimaru Hall, which also promotes production of tsumugi goods such as purses, wallets and bags.

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