In the northern part of the island of Okinawa, banana fiber fabrics (bashofu) are produced whose thread is mainly obtained from a specific plant (itobasho). This activity, already known since the thirteenth century, has decreased significantly with the arrival of silk and especially cotton.
It is now slightly recovering also because it has become part of the Japanese cultural heritage. In October 2019 during a trip to Japan, I was able to follow a seven-day internship at the atelier of master Fukushima Yasuhiro, thanks to the help of Mrs. Misuzu Dadò of Rivera, a very skilled translator.
The process to obtain the thread is very long: cultivation, care and cutting of the plant, cleaning of the trunk, separation of strips from the trunk, cleaning of these strips to obtain the suitable part, boiling in water and ash, cooling and rinsing, cleaning of these strips through a bamboo gripper until a sort of raffia is obtained, separation of the same into increasingly thin parts until the desired size is obtained, knotting of these threads to obtain a long one. At this point it is possible to proceed with dyeing and weaving, two still very long processes. From each trunk about 15-20 grams of yarn are obtained.
It was a fantastic experience, extremely although very tiring. Now at my house, I will slowlyfinish preparing the thread and with my loom I will finally have a fabric with a yarn totally prepared by myself.
Here it is, the final result: cloth (cm 49 x cm 435) with a handwoven natural ramie warp and a banana fibre weft. This peculiar thread is the result of a 7 days internship on the Okinawa Island, in the Southern part of Japan, unger the guidance of the teacher Yasuhiro Fukushima. This yarn has been made with my hands through the various steps, from cutting down trees in the plantation to the final spinning (5 days) at my home.