Textiles of Minority Populations in Japan


Laura Wong

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The focus in most texts on kimono and Japanese textiles is on only those originating from the major urban centers of Tokyo or Kyoto. However, many unique and different textile traditions exist in Japan that are not from the main island of Honshu. The Ryukyu kingdom of Okinawa and the Ainu peoples of Hokkaido both have fascinating and unique textile traditions. The Ryukyu textiles reflect the cosmopolitan nature as an island trade hub between China, Southeast Asia, and Japan, whereas the textiles of the Ainu reflect their position as perhaps the only true remainder of the indigenous culture of Japan. Throughout history, these regions have been kept at an arm?s distance by the Japanese who viewed the peoples of these cultures as savages rather than as Japanese. In fact, these two areas were originally not a part of Japan at all. As time went on, however, each of these cultures? land was annexed by the Japanese, who used it to their own advantage instead of to that of the indigenous peoples. As a result, the culture of Okinawa and Hokkaido gradually became enmeshed within Japanese culture, and today are the result of this combination of indigenous culture and outside influence. Through the first hand research on these two cultures, I hope to discover how the history and culture of these two unique nations is woven into their unique textile traditions, and to discover what role traditional arts play in contemporary society.


Morgan Pitelka




The Paul K. & Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - International Fellowship

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