Japan, Japanese fabrics, The universe of fabrics

The Respect of Know-How

In Japan, the performing arts (nō, kabuki, …) and crafts are highly acknowledged. And since 1950 exists a law which protects those cultural assets. Certain persons or groups are then considered as “national treasures”. And certain know-how as intangible cultural properties.

In the Okinawa archipelago, the climate is tropical. Then man weaves the fiber of a local banana tree. This know-how (bashofu) together concerns the extraction of the fiber, its spinning, weaving and dyeing. All those operations are manual. The virtues of this fabric are close to linen (flax): it makes garments which are light, solid, very breathable and very pleasant to wear, especially in summer.

Toshiko Taira is now 98 years old. She is a weaver and a dyer, who revived and re-invented the use of the banana fiber in Okinawa. For this reason, she was elected as “living Japanese treasure”. In this is an acknowledgement of the person, the respect of the know-how and its value, and the willingness to transmit it, before it disappears.

Okinawa is namely reknown for the textiles, but also for having the longest life expectancy and the highest rate of 100+ years old people. Among the reasons, there is this willingness to keep seniors in active life and in the society. On this video, Toshiko Taira is 93 years old. We can see her working. To live so long, you shall certainly love your own life.

Below, 2 videos indeed, the first one (in Japanese) presents Toshiko Taira. And the other the Bashofu. The precision and quality of the handwork is fascinating. So inspiring examples.

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