Because there was a time in Japanese History when those Japanese who lived on the Okinawan Islands were not allowed by Japanese Law to wear Silk, “Oshima Silk” became their method for doing so — right under the noses of their Japanese Rulers. The Islanders used the tail end of the silk worm’s cocoon to create a cloth that the Japanese did not recognize as the shiny silk that they used to create their topcoats or “Haori.” In ancient Okinawa, to envelop your body with a woven cloth represented your desire to embrace and to protect the sacred spirit concealed within the body. Thus, this stunning Haori was much more than a protective covering, before the development of any aesthetic or social significance; it also expressed a religious belief.
The extremely fine threads, beautiful weaving and imaginative patterns in Okinawan Silk (“Kasuri Ori”) are unrivaled in the exquisite quality of this fully reversible, man’s informal Haori that has been sewn completely by hand both inside and out. The hand woven Kasuri Silk is distinguished by weaving together silk fibers that have been tied with string in predetermined areas dictated by the desired design, then immersing them in a natural dye. The famed deep black brown colors of Oshima were produced by combining the iron rich soil of Kume Island with the natural colors of Okinawan plants; which, alone created many of the other variations in natural dyes. Kasuri motifs range from several inches in width and height to only a fraction of an inch. This fine fabric is greatly prized and extraordinarily expensive today, as it required a year’s work for the weaving of one garment. Oshima Island lies in Kagoshima Prefecture in the Okinawan chain of islands.
The vibrant hand painted design on the inside back lining panel has been created through the Rice Paste Resist (“Tsutsugaki”) process whereby each individual color had to be applied separately, while the remainder of the artwork was painted out with rice paste. It was a very time consuming, labor intensive, and expensive technique that resulted in glorious works of art. The design tells the story of the overseer of the Torii Gates that lead into the Shrine towards which the laborers are toiling their way up the mountainside. All of this would have taken place during the time that the Cherry Blossoms (“Sakura”) wee blooming in Spring (“Haru”).