Authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi Silk Pongee
Along with Persian carpets and Gobelin tapestries, Oshima Tsumugi silk pongee is one of the world's three great textiles.
Its historical record can be traced back to the Nara period, approx. 1,300 years ago, and the textile is still produced in various locations in Kagosima Prefecture including Amami islands. Due to its origin in Amami Oshima island (one of Amami islands), its official name is recognized as “Authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi.”
The unique dying method uses the Amami's iron-rich natural mud as a dye. This makes the silk threads into beautiful and luminous black. After being taken off the loom, each plain weave textile has a unique and detailed graphical pattern made of over a million dots dyed onto each single silk thread before they are set onto the loom. It takes more than six months to produce the final product through over 40 processes. Authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi has unique features distinctive from any other textile.
Culture in Amami
Amami islands consists of eight islands located in the area between Okinawa and mainland Kagosima. The climate in the area is oceanic semi-tropical with an average temperature at 21℃ and an annual rainfall of 3000 mm.
Relationships among residents in the local community (“Sima”) is strong, on which their lives are based in various aspects.
Amami’s textiles have been made of various natural fibers, including banana (“Basho”), ramie, cotton, and silk.
The origin of Amami Oshima Tsumugi can be traced back to 1,300 years ago or more, and this textile has the longest history and tradition in Japan.
The unique weaving and dying methods have been passed on through generations. After introduction of “Shimebata,” or binding looms, the silk was dyed in the bound form, allowing very distinctive and unique splashed patterns. Today’s Oshima Tsumugi silk pongee is now recognized as a very unique textile in the world.
In the mid-Edo period (1700s), the Satsuma clan (today's Kagosima Prefecture) prohibited the residents in Amami islands from wearing kimono made of Oshima Tsumugi.
The Oshima Tsumugi was only supplied for the Satsuma clan as part of a tax. After the Meiji period (late 1800s), many women in Amami islands have been engaged in Oshima Tsumugi weaving, contributing to their family income at a great extent.
In Amami Oshima, the kimono was not only a cloth: it has been believed to protect the wearer’s soul with a supernatural power.
When wearing a new kimono for the first time, the wearer used to pray to the east for the health of her/himself with some purifying salt in the mouth. People in Amami islands call Oshima Tsumigi “nono” with certain affection to the textile.
The factory considers communication and coordination are important in a manufacturing environment where a large number of complex processes are involved.
The president always focuses on making the tasks easier for the craftsmen and craftswomen. While inheriting the tradition and skills from the previous generation, the factory aims to expand the potential of the pongee beyond the traditional Japanese kimono.
The factory’s motto runs as: “Tradition is always made of new challenges.”
The factory started silkworm breeding a few years ago. The workplace now is surrounded by the sounds of silkworm eating the leaves and the looms in operation.
Seeking new potentials of Oshima Tsumugi, the factory has rolled out its original brands: Amamifu and Crystal Oshima Tsumugi.
With “Creating new with Amami’s tradition and skills” as their main theme, the factory cultivates and addresses various demands by combining silk and other materials and developing wider Tsumugi looms for western clothes.
Maeda Tsumugi Kogei
The youngest Tsumugi producer in his 30s has been making efforts to repay many craftsmen and craftswomen for their great contribution to the industry. Starting from the design, the factory aims to pass the tradition of the world’s most detailed Oshima Tsumugi silk pongee to the following generations.
The factory aims to open the doors for the bright future of Oshima Tsumugi with new values. Maeda Tsumugi Kogei has focused on deepening its understanding on binding as the core process among a number of Oshima Tsumugi manufacturing processes.
“AMAMI” is a fashion label for overseas made from traditional materials in Kagoshima Prefecture Amami Oshima
That material was called authentic Amami Oshima Tsumugi and debuted at that showroom during the period of Paris Fashion Week Men's in January 2018.
It is unisex, seasonless items will be presented.