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Miyako-jofu

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  • Other Names: 苧麻 (karamushi, chôma)
  • Japanese: 宮古 上布 (Miyako joufu)

Miyako-jôfu is a type of woven ramie (J: karamushi) textile, which was historically a highly prized specialty product of the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands, and which remains a prominent example of local craft traditions today.

Jôfu is said to be "prized for its strength, high luster, remarkable resistance to bacteria and mildew, [for being] absorben[t] yet quick-drying ..., and [for its] affinity to dyes."[1] With its name meaning literally "high [quality] cloth," ramie was worn chiefly by members of the royalty and the aristocracy. It was also among the chief forms of tribute goods sent to China and Japan, and an accepted form of tax payment collected by the Ryûkyû Kingdom from Miyako and Yaeyama. Its production was strictly managed by the royal government, and designs were generally derived from one particular traditional book of designs, known as the Miezu-chô.[2]

It is made from the fibers of a plant known as karamushi or chôma, which are then spun into thread. While the finest, thinnest fibers were used to make jôfu ("superior fabric"), rougher fibers were also traditionally used to make materials known as chôfu ("middle[-quality] fabric") and gefu ("lesser" or "lower[-quality] fabric"). A light fabric, jôfu was particularly good for summer clothing.[3]

The earliest extant documentary reference to Miyako-jôfu comes from a 1583 record of King Shô Ei of Ryûkyû receiving a gift or tribute payment of the fabric.

References

  1. Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. p419.
  2. Satoshi Tsuhako, "Arts and Crafts of Okinawa," Bingata! Only in Okinawa, Okinawa Prefectural Government (2016), 26.
  3. Gallery labels, "Churashima Textiles" exhibition, Shoto Museum, Tokyo, Sept 2019.
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