Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Fabric of Their Lives

Today I was contacted by a young lady that is totally onboard with what I am trying to accomplish through this blog. Her name is Elisa Rocket. She is a Filipino American and in Okinawa researching music and teaching English with her cousin. They have provided me a break today by providing one of their stories about Bashofu textiles. My week has been a little bit to busy to keep up with everything as I had to attend training this week and it threw off my normal routine. Anyway here is their article. They did a very good job of reporting about an ancient Ryukyu folkcraft.
Today we went to the small northern town of Kijoka, which is renowned for the production of bashofu textiles. This 8-century-old art form is now preserved by some badass octogenarian women who still create this unique cloth without mechanical aide (minus a simple loom). It’s a collaborative process between a whole community of women, and it starts with these banana (basho) trees. The fibers from the trunks are stripped and separated into coarse threads.

The fibers get boiled down in special solutions of wood ash, rice gruel and awamori (Okinawan sake). Below they are dyed with Okinawan indigo grass, but most are kept the natural brown.

Weaving into designs like this is a very tedious task. In one year, a single woman could produce only enough cloth for three kimonos. It’s no wonder the Japanese government deemed bashofu an “Important Intangible Cultural Property.” I did wonder, though, how so many people are motivated to put so much time and manual labor into such a small (albeit beautiful) end product.

But this celebrated folk art, just like Okinawa’s folk music, reflects a sense of communal functionality and cooperation. I figure as long as you’ve got good company, you could dedicate yourself to anything — especially if it’s preserving a cultural tradition.

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