1. Events Schedules
  2. Ohshima Tsumugi: Voices from a Minority Culture of the Amami Islands in Japan
  3. The Process of Amami-Ohshima Tsumugi
  4. Different Types of Amami-Ohshima Tsumugi
  5. Traditional designs (Gara) of Amami-Ohshima Tsumugi
  6. Modern Design in Ohshima Tsumugi
  7. Cultural Diversity in Art: Voices from the Minority Culture of the Amami Islands in Japan

The Process of Amami-Ohshima Tsumugi

Ohshima has a long tradition of silk production. Over the centuries a number of techniques were developed which resulted in the unique Ohshima tsumugi silk fabric. The process of creating Ohshima Tsumugi is very complicated with the combination of Some (dyeing) and Ori (weaving with warp and woof), but it could be divided into the following main six steps.

1. Zuan (Design): The design of Ohshima Tsumugi is written on graph paper as series of dots.
2. Norihari (Starching): Starching and drying a group of threads with Funori (glue made from seaweed). For the process of weaving preliminary blocks, the necessary number of threads is glued together.
3. Shime (pronounced "Shee-may": Binding): Weaving preliminary blocks before pattern dyeing. Silk thread (the woof) is bound with cotton thread (the warp) according to the design before dying. The total binding spots in one cloth can reach several million.
4. Some (pronounced "So-may": Dyeing)
Step one:
Initial dyeing with Teichigi (Sharinbai): Broken pieces of the local Teichigi tree are boiled for 14 hours in a big pot. The binding threads are dyed in this liquid 30 or 40 times and become dark-red.

Teichigi tree pieces
Step two: Secondary dyeing with Mud: The binding thread is then dyed again in mud 3 or 4 times. Eventually the thread turns black.
These two dying processes of step one & step 2 are repeated 5 times. It takes 10 years to learn the dying technique.
5. Kakoh (Additional process): Unraveling preliminary blocks and dyeing preliminary woven blocks. In this process the cotton thread which binds the silk threads is carefully untied taking care not to damage the silk. The bound spots are still white because they were tied so tightly. These spots are then dyed with another colorful dye.
6.Ori (Weaving): The silk threads are arranged on the Takahata (weaving machine). As the weaving begins several clear figures, which are called Kasuri designs, appear on the cloth. It takes about one month to weave a cloth.