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Japanese Traditional Craft Resource Center Category


Japanese Traditional Craft

Craft Category Textile
Name Oku-Aizu Showa Karamushi Ori: Oku-Aizu Showa Ramie Textiles

Main Production Site:Fukushima

Karamushi (Ramie), is a perennial plant from the nettle family, that is also called Choma. Its fibers are called Aoso. Some say Karamushi fabric surpasses hemp because of its absorption, quick-dry ability and comfortable texture. It is praised as the best quality fabric for summer cloths (kimonos).

[Nationally designated traditional craft (by minister of Economy, Trade and Industry)]
Provided by Showa-mura,Fukushima Prefecture
Translation by: Nahoko Maeda, reviewed by Eri Hara

Materials Karamushi
Crafting Processes 【1】Planting
Local people plant Karamushi roots in the middle of May after the snow disappears. In the first year, they remove weeds from the field and in the second year, they burn Karamushi roots. On the third year, they harvest the plants that grow enough for the production of fiber for fabric.

【2】Burning off karamushis (Karamushi-yaki)
Local people burn off the Karamushi bush around the middle day of April in lunar calendar shoman (lit. “a little full”, May 21st). Since Karamushis grow at different time, you need to burn buds and stimulate roots for the simultaneous bloom. This method is also useful for reducing insect populations and producing ashes that provides fertilizer for plants.

【3】Kaki-Yui (Fencing)
After Karamushi-yaki and fertilization, local people install and nail pickets on the thatch (kaya) fence around the field.
Fencing provides a barrier between the wind and plants, stabilizes plants and keeps animals out from the field. Karamushis grow well in the fence.

【4】Harvesting plants
Local people harvest Karamushis from around July 20th to the middle of August (Obon holidays). During this term, high-quality fibers are obtained from their stems. They cut each stem carefully with the reap, removing leaves and prepare stems in the same length with the ruler called Shakubou. They grade plants quality by how they grow and divide, collect and sheave them.

【5】Soak karamushi stems in water
Selected stems are soaked into the clear water for a couple of hours to overnight. It makes them easier to peel.

【6】Peeling karamushi stems
Artisans peel each soaked stem carefully to produce two peels. Peels are twisted and tied in the size of a fist and resoaked into the clear water in order to prevent the dehydration and also decolorize stems.

【7】Removing outer layers
Artisans place peels on the special board (Obiki-gu) to remove outer layers and extract fibers from them. Freshly extracted fibers glow like pearls. They dry fibers in the shade for two days.

【8】Storing the dried fibers
Dried karamushi fibers are divided into sheafs. Each weighs 100 monmes (approximately 375g) for shipping. They are stored in the shade or indoor.

【9】Shredding fibers
Artisans shred the fibers into thin and long strips to make and tie the yarn together. It requires patience to shred each fiber. It takes approximately two months to shred and prepare the fibers for one obi belt.

Yarn are saved in the thread bentwood container (oboke). Artisans pick up carefully, moisten and twist them. Then reel and spin them with wheel to make stronger.

Handweavers weave yarn with the traditional backstop looms into fabric. Karamushi fabric is used for comfortable summer cloths that don't cling to your body. And it is highly reputed that you don't want to try other fabric once you wear it. Currently, Karamushi kimono fabrics, sashes (obis) and accessories are made.
History Karamushi fabric has been made from the plant fibers since the ancient time. Called the oldest fabric in Japan, Karamushi-ori was once produced everywhere and presented as the precious local linen fabric to the emperor.

Showa mura has cultivated karamushis for high-quality hemp fabrics that local people continuously inherited the cultivation over generations. In 1975, artisans started Karamushi product development and started Karamushi weaving workshop from 1994. Participants experience whole handmade process from cultivation to weaving and understand predecessors passions and thoughts for making fabrics and importance of inheriting traditional technology.
Related URL https://www.vill.showa.fukushima.jp/introduction/365/

◆Exhibition / Showcase
Karamushi Craftwork Museum
Address: 1 Sakursuenohara Showa-mura,
Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture

◆Event Information
Events and workshops are held at:
Karamushi-orinosato Showa, Michinoeki
1 Sakurauenohara Showa-mura, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Create your own coaster with Karamushi fabric.
Experience Karamushi fabric weaving and other workshops.
(Reservation required)

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