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.
Closely connected with the history of Kagoshima, there are documents verifying that just after the middle of the 19th century, the making of Miyakonojo bows was a thriving local craft and by the end of the century, many bow makers had been instructed in the craft by two generations of the locally residing Kusumi family. Blessed with plentiful supplies of locally obtainable raw materials, the craft developed and by the 1920s bows were being sold in East Asia. Although there was a fall in demand after World War II, at the height of production there were some 30 bow makers active in the area. It is now the country's only production center for bows, 90% of all bamboo bows being made here.Following an established pattern, there are seven joints of bamboo on the forward face and six on the inner face. Although the shape may differ according to who makes it, a good bow is thought to be one with a perfect balance between its upper and lower portions, and one to which consideration has been given to its center of gravity and the distribution of weight after the arrow has been shot. With 9 government recognized Master Craftsmen among them, there are now 15 people employed by 11 firms continuing this long tradition.