- Basyo -
This beautiful cloth is made from banana fiber. The plant grows in subtropical Okinawa prefecture.
The appeal of the fine thread made from banana fiber lies in it glossiness and translucency, which, when woven, creates cloth with the characteristics of dragonfly wings.
Once the plant grows 5 to 8 meters tall and 15 centimeters in diameter, the banana leaf stem is peeled layer by layer. The thin fibers are then tied together to create a long thread.
The thread from the innermost layer of the leaf stem is very thin and pliable. These high quality threads were used to make clothing for warriors in the Ryukyu dynasty.
The outermost layer produces thread that is thick and coarse, and these less refined threads were used for making everyday clothing worn by the common people.
Banana fiber cloth was made in Okinawa until WWII, when all cultivation was burned to the ground. After the war, few people worked on restoring the cultivation of banana fiber. One woman in particular, Ms. Toshiko Taira, continues to lead in the restoration today. She is considered a Living National Treasure.
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