As soon as you enter, you realize the building is filled with a rhythmic tapping.
It’s the sound of looms weaving the traditional fabric of Yanaijima.
For this article, I went to Yanai City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, to a place called Yanai Nishigura. A type of building constructed like a traditional Japanese warehouse, a dozozukuri, it’s located in an area designated as a national important group of traditional buildings called Shirakabe no machinami.
Yanaijima is a type of cotton fabric that has been woven in Yanai since olden times. In the Edo period, it was known throughout Japan, but towards the end of the Taisho period (1912~1926) it disappeared and became almost completely lost. However, it reappeared again in 1993, and now anyone can try to weave their own at Yanai Nishigura.
It takes about 10 minutes to weave a 10×10 cm piece of fabric. As it only costs about 300 yen, it’s also a great souvenir for yourself.
There are several looms with different colored warp threads, so you can choose whichever color you like. As you can also choose the woof threads, you can create the perfect color combination. The variations are virtually endless, which makes you want to come back and weave more. It seems there are many people that do just that.
The finished fabric may or may not look as good as you had hoped, but it is still something you made yourself, which makes it quite charming and unique. I grew fond of mine right away!
At Karari, which lies just opposite Nishigura, you can buy various items made using yanaijima fabric.
For example card cases, purses and luncheon mats. This simple handmade fabric is also popular as a souvenir. How about taking visiting Shirakabe no machinami?
Address: 3700-8, Yanai, Yanai City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Closed: Tuesdays (Wednesday if Tuesday is a national holiday), end-of-year
Weaving lesson: Yanaijima – 300 yen (13:00 – 16:00) Goldfish lantern – 900 yen (10:00 – 16:00)
Setouchi Finder Editor: Masafumi Fujimoto
Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.
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