The origins of this cloth woven on the Amami islands near Okinawa dates back to the 7th century. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century, however, that the craft took on the guise of an industry and its techniques were subsequently handed on to those working in Kagoshima Prefecture. The ikat or kasuri patterns are achieved on a special loom called a shimehata. And the dyeing of the yarn with mud is especially famous. The origins of this cloth are said to go back to the ikat weaves that originated in far off India and when this technique spread through Sumatra, Java and on through the East Indies, it was also brought to the Amami islands.
This distinctive, beautifully fine ikat patterned cloth has a restrained character, being dyed with a colorant derived from a member of the rose family called sharinbai (Rhaphiolepis umbellata) and mud. There are now 11,908 people engaged in this work managed by 748 firms. There are 141 government recognized Master Craftsmen among those at work.