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.