Chibana hanaori to be officially designated as a traditional craft

<em>Chibana hanaori</em> to be officially designated as a traditional craft

Chibana hanaori will be added to METI designated traditional crafts from Okinawa, the first new item in 23 years.

May 22, 2012 Ryota Shimabukuro of Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 21, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) officially added Chibana hanaori from Okinawa City to the list of METI-designated traditional crafts. The ministry will make its final decision and the public announcement in July. After Yaeyama minsa and Yaeyama jofu in 1989, METI newly designated a traditional craft from Okinawa for the first time in 23 years, and with this Chibana hanaori becomes the 14th item. After the official designation, the government will support the opening up of new markets and the development of new products for Chibana hanaori based on a five-year development plan put together by the Chibana Hanaori Business Cooperative.

There are currently 212 traditional craft items designated by METI across the country. Following the 17 items from Kyoto and the 16 items from Niigata, Okinawa has the third most designated crafts in the country with 14 items.

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The unique characteristic of Chibana hanaori is the combination of tate-uki hanaori and nui-tori hanaori techniques. The designs of tate-uki hanaori are embossed vertically in series, whereas the threading is embossed like embroidery in the designs of nui-tori hanaori. The oldest Chibana hanaori in existence is thought to have been woven in the late 19th century.   

Chibana hanaori was used for costumes worn at the traditional event of prayers for prosperity and a good harvest, called usu-deku. In addition to traditional kimono and obi, in recent years hanaori has been used for making neckties and bags.

Research about textiles in Okinawa was conducted in the 1930s mainly on the western side of the area around what is currently Route 58, but the eastern side of the island such as the area that was formerly Misato Village (now Okinawa City) where Chibana hanaori has been woven, was not researched in any great detail. Since the 1990s, professor at the University of the Ryukyus, Jun Kataoka, and his student Shin Koki started researching the technique, and collectors of old clothes are also helping with the research.

Okinawa City began promoting Chibana hanaori-related business in 2000 and the Chibana Hanaori Business Cooperative was formed in 2008. In 2010 March, the Okinawa Prefectural Government designated Chibana hanaori as a traditional craft.

(English translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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