Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ancient fashion in Japan

In the back of my mind, I've always wondered if the original inhabitants of Hokkaido and Okinawa shared any common threads.

Well, there's one site — Kyoko National Museum — that shows us that the two cultures from opposite ends of Japan didn't exactly use common threads at all. Literally. Different resources mean different types of fiber from plants are available. The clothing of early Okinawans — the Ryukyu Islanders — was and still is brightly colored thanks to a dyeing technique known as bingata.

It's pretty cool stuff that makes me feel in awe. My mom was a seamstress who often would sew aloha shirts for my brother and I from scratch. Well, sort of by scratch. She'd buy the material from a store and sew it together.

Anyway, the bingata designs were used for kimono.

Meanwhile, the Ainu in Hokkaido made cloth from elm fibers into shirts called attus. They look nothing like bingata and have more resemblance to designs from Western Europe, slightly Celtic, even. That would be something worth exploring since there are a few theories out there that claim the Ainu descend from caucasian blood, traveling across Northern Europe and North Asia before crossing the Korean peninsula to Japan. True?

Nobody can prove it, but it's definitely food for thought.

It's certain that the Ainu lived in Japan long before the latter, invading waves of migrants. But where did the Ryukyu people come from? Questions, questions and more questions.

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