Okinawa Craft Industry Promotion CenterOkinawa Craft Industry Promotion Center

Yaeyama Jōfu・Yaeyama Minsā

Brief Summary and History

Yaeyama jōfu, a traditional fabric made with thread derived from the ramie plant, is broadly divided into two types: printed (through rubbing and printing on weaved fabric) and dyed (where threads are bundled and tied during the dyeing process to produce patterns on the cloth). Of the many types of textiles seen in Okinawa, only Yaeyama jōfu uses the rubbing and printing (surikomi) method when producing dyed patterns on the cloth. Popular in use as summer kimono, the allure of Yaeyama jōfu lies in the contrast of its reddish brown patterns against a lightly-colored background. While the origins of the fabric remains unknown, it has been said that fishermen from what is now Jeju Island in South Korea who drifted ashore to Yonaguni in the year 1477, observed that ramie cloth was being woven in Yonaguni. After the establishment of a system of tribute payments under the Ryukyu Kingdom, Yaeyama jōfu was woven under the supervision of the royal government, resulting in the production of elaborately patterned fabrics. The textile weaving industry developed to become one of the major industries in Yaeyama, even after the abolition of capitation taxes.

Yaeyama minsā is a type of kasuri made by weaving cotton warp threads dyed with indigo or fukugi. Min means “cotton”, and sā means “belt”, a literal reference to minsā’s proportions as a narrow belt with a width of one and a half to three inches. In recent years however, minsā expanded to include belts of larger widths. The exact origins of minsā are unclear, although it is believed to have already been in existence in the Yaeyama region in the early 18th century, as the use of cotton is mentioned in records denoting a system of dress codes to differentiate members of the aristocracy and official court ranks.

Basic data

MaterialYaeyama Jōfu Ramie thread・Yaeyama Minsā Cotton thread
Place of manufactureIshigaki City, Taketomi Town
Main ProductsKimono, obi, neckties etc.
Partnership name and date of establishmentIshigaki City Textile Business Cooperative Association (December 23rd, 1976), Taketomi Town Textile Business Cooperative Association (January 18th, 1989)
Date designated by nationalApril 11th, 1989
Date designated by prefecture11th June, 1974
Source*Source: "An Outline of Strategies for the Promotion of the Craft Industry"

Place of manufacture


Both the Yaeyama jōfu and Yaeyama minsā are produced in Ishigaki City and Taketomi Town. There was a period in time after WWII when it was feared that there would be no longer any successors to inherit the traditions of local textile production, but efforts by local craftsmen and the government  in implementing a project to nurture and train new artisans brought significant improvements to the industry. In 1976, the Ishigaki City Textile Business Cooperative Association was formed, and this was followed by the designation of both Yaeyama jōfu and Yaeyama minsā as intangible cultural assets by Okinawa prefecture two years later. Similarly, there were only a small number of Yaeyama minsā weavers by 1960, but attempts at diversifying use of Yaeyama minsā in various other products proved successful. This paved the way for continuous efforts to be made in new product development to meet changing needs of consumers while passing on traditional weaving skills and techniques, in particular the formation of Taketomi Town Textile Business Cooperative Association in 1989. Since then, the association has been committed to promoting the production and sale of local textiles together with the Ishigaki City Textile Business Cooperative Association.

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