Tsumugi Day 2019—Celebrating Traditions of Oshima Tsumugi Silk Fabric




Rosemary White



Oshima Tsumugi is a special kind of silk fabric that is traditionally dyed in mud repeatedly to create a spectrum of shades and textures, or with indigo and other plant variants to create different colors.

The Tsumugi tradition has existed on Amami for over 1,300 years, and to this day remains a source of pride and individuality for the Amami people.  The designs for Tsumugi are often based off of icons that characterize Amami, such as the local flora and fauna, but various regions throughout Amami Oshima have created their own unique patterns to represent that area as well.

Due to the arduous and lengthy production process (which includes 40 separate processes that amount to around 500 ‘steps’) that requires multiple craftsman, a single roll of Tsumugi fabric can take from 6 months to a year to complete.

This diversity of intricate patterns and styles, paired with the skill required to create them, thus developed a rich variety of Tsumugi that the kimono, or traditional Japanese clothing, community regards as the highest quality of kimono.

On Amami Oshima, January 5th is `Tsumugi Day,’ and this event is held to celebrate the rich tradition that is Tsumugi.

In this article I will introduce the festivities that took place in this vibrant celebration, please take a look!


Activities on the 1st Floor

This year Tsumugi Day took place in AiAi Plaza in Naze, Amami City, and was split into multiple floors.

Around 500 people of all ages attended the celebration, with about 200 attendees donning Tsumugi kimono and outerwear.

The celebration featured special free services for participants; on the 1st floor there was a seating area with green tea refreshments, and a professional photographer where people could have their photo taken and printed in high-quality.

The photography area was set up towards the back of the first floor, as seen in the above picture.

The 1st floor also had accessories and other products made from Tsumugi sold by the craftsmen of Authentic Oshima Tsumugi silk fabric.




Coin purses, wallets, and neckties make up some of the most popular products that blend traditional customs with fashion and practicality.



On the 2nd and 3rd Floors

Other interactive services to engage participants in the event were also held on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

The craftsman and producers of Tsumugi came together to compete in a Tsumugi Coordination Contest to vie for the most fashionably coordinated Tsumugi kimono outfit; both male and female variations of Tsumugi outfits were submitted and set on display for participants to vote on.





Those attending the event could also learn from experts how to walk, bow, and act properly in kimono, and try their hand at making accessories from Tsumugi fabric in a crafts workshop.




Attendees could also try on a kimono to wear for the duration of the event for only 1,000 Yen; there was a limited amount of kimono, so people came early for this experience!



At the Event Stage

On the 2nd floor there was also an event stage that hosted some of the main events of the celebration, such as famous musicians, an interview with the winners of the Miss Tsumugi (紬美人) pageant, an ‘innovative Tsumugi’ fashion show, speeches from the Amami City Mayor and other notable figures, and more.


The popular shima-uta (local island folksongs) artist Shingo Maeyama took to the stage twice during the Tsumugi Day festivities, and was accompanied by Juri Mukai.  Shingo Maeyama is famous all throughout Japan for his talented shima-uta singing.




The event stage seats quickly filled with spectators of Shingo Maeyama’s performance.


The announcement of the winners of the Tsumugi Coordination Contest and a raffle that took place throughout the celebration was held at the event stage as well.  The main stage announcer was Youko Watari, a popular personality from Amami FM.




The top three kimonos in the Coordination Contest were elegant and yet each had a sense of modernity to them that inspires the younger generations to continue this unique art-form.


This young girl won a handbag made from Tsumugi silk fabric, bringing bright smiles to the faces of all the spectators.



Other Activities and Services

In addition to those listed above, activities that are fun for the whole family were also part of the festivities.

Mochi (glutinous rice cake) making, Japanese sake tasting, ‘zenzai’ (red bean soup) tasting, and more.  Everyone enjoys themselves at this vibrant and friendly event.



When making mochi, you must pound steamed rice repeatedly with a large mallet, like the one shown above.  It is traditionally done around New Year’s to prepare the mochi that is in traditional New Year’s foods, like the aforementioned red bean soup.

The local radio station, Amami FM, was also live-broadcasting the event; the personality Taishi Maruta was interviewing attendees to spread the word about the celebration.



Those who wore Tsumugi also went on a short march through Naze, greeting spectators and exhibiting the simple sophistication of Tsumugi.  The front three women are the official ‘Miss Tsumugis’ of Amami.



Final Festivities

To end most celebrations on Amami, people perform the Hachi-gatsu Odori dance that is traditionally held in August of the lunar calendar to pray for a bountiful harvest, as well as the Rokucho dance.

In classic Amami fashion (pun intended), the Tsumugi Day event came to an end with these dances, which every attendee is invited to participate in.


The Hachi-gatsu Odori dance was led by the ‘Arashage-kai’ (a traditional dance group).





The Rokucho dance is a fun dance for everyone to participate in and end the event on a high note.  The people of Amami are all about bringing everyone together, and this event truly made me feel closer with the local islanders.


I hope you include this event in your itinerary if you ever visit Amami!!


Please keep an eye out for more articles about the intricate art-form that is Oshima Tsumugi!





















































































Rosemary White

Rosemary White

Born and raised in New Mexico, U.S.A, I have worked as a Coordinator for International Relations for Amami City as of August, 2018. I translate materials such as Amamikke articles as well as write my own, and I run the Amami Island Info facebook, insta and twitter accounts. Amami foodie and tour guide in the making. アメリカのニューメキシコ州生まれ育ち、2018の8月から奄美市の国際交流員(CIR)として奄美大島に来島。観光パンフレットやあまみっけの記事の翻訳、SNS情報発信。自然探検、美食家。

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