A trip to Kijoka

The northern part of Okinawa’s main island, known as Yanbaru, is a thinly populated region of mountains and forest. I was there today to visit the Ogimi area which is famed for the longevity of its residents as well as for its bashofu weaving kaikan (factory) in the village of Kijoka. Bashofu is a traditional Okinawan textile made from banana fibre and is handcrafted into clothing and other items by means of a lengthy and painstaking process. The craft was revived after the Second World War by Kijoka native Toshiko Taira who is now 92 years old and a living national treasure. She is still active and recently made a special appearance in the movie Karakara, part of which was filmed in the village. The bashofu kaikan does not encourage tourists and does not allow photography inside the building, but visitors may enter and observe those at work on the weaving process. Kijoka itself is a pleasant sleepy place surrounded by mountains but also just minutes from Okinawa’s north-west coast.

Entrance to the Kijoka Bashofu Kaikan

Banana trees next to a stone with the words of a poem about bashofu by Okinawan poet Yamanokuchi Baku

Banana trees ready to be made into bashofu

A street in the village

Hibiscus in Kijoka

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