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The Ainu & The Attush – Hokkaido, Japan

“Thank you for your clothes,” said the people of Ainu village to the trees before they peel the barks in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

The Ainu (means Human) is the indigenous people of northern Japan, the original inhabitants of Hokkaido. In the Ainu village of Nibutani-Attus, the place where the traditional Ainu textile called Attush is woven from the yarns made of the internal skin of the tree bark of Ulmus laciniata or Ohyo tree (lobed elm).

During summer season, once a year – the local media always gather around the forest when people pull the barks of trees, to film the process. In each event, the experienced people teach the new generations to continue the tradition. This event is also available for non-Ainu people.

To introduce: the traditional Ainu textile called Attushi. Image by the video of Greg Lam. To introduce: the traditional Ainu textile called Attushi. Image by the video of Greg Lam.

After the bark peeling, they took only the inner layers and boiled them to soften the cellulose so that they can be separated into thinner layers. The barks are boiled in water in a pot on fire – wood ash mixed, separate them to thinner layers then bleached and dried in the sun.

To introduce: the traditional Ainu textile - Attush made by Ainu people. Image by TRC Leiden. To introduce: the traditional Ainu textile and Attush made by Ainu people. Image by TRC Leiden.

The fibres were taken from the bark and separated and twisted into a skein. Women then wove the fibres into a thick, light brown coloured cloth on backstrap looms.

Attus or Attush or Nibutani-Attus is characterized by its excellence in waterproofness and breathability, as well as durability, a rare feature for natural fabrics, as well as its unique texture.

The textiles are often manufactured into Kimono, Hanten short coat, Obi belts, and small articles.

The Nibutani Biratori handicrafts of Nibutani-Ita (wooden trays) and Nibutani-Attus (textiles made from tree bark) became the first handicrafts from Hokkaido Prefecture to be designated as Traditional Craft Industries by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on March 8th, 2013.

 

For more information for the Ainu: Websites nibutani.jp/tradition/ – www.town.biratori.hokkaido.jp/biratori/nibutani/ – AINU (Indigenous People of Japan).

Source: Ainu Traditional CraftAinu traditional crafts — Making Cloth from Tree Bark with Ainu in Japan — AINU (Indigenous people of Japan) — TRC – Attush — Wikipedia: Ainu People.