Headline Mar 18, 2015/ ''' BYE-BYE! -O''BEAUTIFUL JAPANESE KIMONOS '''



THE PROUD NATION OF JAPAN esteems its traditional form of dress as very high art. And the exquisite fact is, rightly so!

But sadly, those heady days are over,  as a shift to Western fashions and Japan's long economic squeeze have lead to plummeting demand, especially for high-end kimonos.

And the old ways have proved hard to discard, despite a growing sense of crisis.Many fret that there will soon be too few students left with the skills to sustain each of the 30 separate steps needed to produce a super kimono.  

THE SILK is first coloured a burgundy hue with natural dye made from the pulp of a local plum tree.

Getting the right shade of red requires repeating the cycle of staining and drying the silk 30 times. Only then is the silk ready to be immersed in the black mud, whose iron reacts with tannins in the tree dye to create the coveted dark brown colour.

This is not the most elaborate step. Even before the silk arrives at the workshop, it is first woven into a temporary fabric as a part of a unique method that the islanders have devised by creating minutely detailed patterns.

After this temporary fabric has been mud-dyed, it is unraveled back into its original silk threads. Each coloured thread now has thousands of tiny white stripes where it overlapped with another thread, blocking the mud from touching it at that point. 

As the threads are rewoven into new fabric by nimble-fingered island women, they slowly reveal perfectly formed patterns, ranging from starkly minimalist shapes to elaborate scenes of bamboo and flying storks.

Ms. Iwasaki says that when she began teaching her yearlong classes, she typically had 40 students, who were drawn by the fact-

That weaving offered higher wages than  -fishing, farming and logging, the island's other industries at the time.

These days, she says she is lucky to get more than two or three students, because weaving no longer pays as well. The myriad of middlemen in the cumbersome distribution system-

Each take a cut, making it hard to reduce prices at the same rate as other items in deflationary Japan. Worse, the brunt of what price cuts have been made inevitably falls on the island's dyers and weavers.

As a result, while a new Oshima kimono can still cost $3,000 to $6,000 in Tokyo, weavers say they are lucky to get more than $400 for a month's exacting work. Other craftsmen in the production process get even less.

Nonetheless, the islanders say they are reluctant to bypass the antiquated distribution system, saying they feel bound by generation-old obligations and a fear of change.

This makes them a microcosm of Japan as a whole, which had been slow to give up a outdated postwar economic model despite years of stagnation.

''It is ironic that we can no longer make ends meet producing something so expensive,'' said Shigehiko Furuta, 67, who uses coloured pens and graph paper to design minutely detailed patterns.

Shinchiro Yamada, 83, the head of the producers union, said the island's ornately woven patterns had their roots in the colourful culture of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, centered in current day Okinawa.

They ruled Amami Oshima until the early 17th century, when the island was conquered by Japanese samurai, who claimed the island's kimonos as tribute.

Mud dyeing started when disobedient islanders buried kimonos in the ground to hide them, only to discover on digging them up again that the fabrics had turned a beautiful dark colour, said Mr. Kanai, who owns a mud-dyeing workshop.

His son, Yukihito, now uses those same centuries-old dyeing techniques to colour new types of items, including T-shirts, jeans and even guitar bodies. 

He is experimenting with selling these over the Internet, to avoid the onerous distribution system.

''We need to become more like artisans in Europe or artists in New York.'' said the younger Mr.Kanai, 35, who said he was one of the few  ''young successes''  in the island's kimono industry.

''Even traditions have to evolve.''  

With respectful dedication to all the Students, Professors and Teachers of Japan. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' In Our Words '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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