Ojiya-chijimi, Echigo-jofu: techniques of making ramie fabric in Uonuma region, Niigata Prefecture
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The high-quality, lightweight patterned textiles made from the ramie plant are ideal for the hot and humid Japanese summer. Ojiya-chijimi, Echigo-jofu: techniques of making ramie fabric in Uonuma region, Niigata Prefecture developed in the north-western part of Japan’s main island and bear the mark of the region’s cooler climate – particularly its snowy winters. Ramie fibres are split from the plant by fingernail and twisted into threads by hand. In tie-dying, bundles of ramie threads are bound tightly with cotton before dying so as to produce a geometric or floral pattern when the thread is woven into fabric using a simple back-strap loom. The cloth is washed in hot water and massaged with the feet, after which the wet fabric is placed on the snow-covered fields for ten to twenty days to be lightened by the sun and the ozone released by the snow’s evaporation. Clothes produced by this method have been popular among people of various social classes for centuries. Practised today mainly by older craftspeople, the art remains a point of cultural pride and an important tool for reinforcing a sense of identity for the community.
Decision 4.COM 13.54
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Ojiya-chijimi, Echigo-jofu: techniques of making ramie fabric in Uonuma region, Niigata Prefecture have been recreated and transmitted while changing their social and cultural functions over time, and provide a sense of identity and continuity for the community that recognizes them as its intangible cultural heritage;
- R.2: Inscription on the Representative List would contribute to raising awareness about the importance of intangible cultural heritage in the community concerned and encourage its continuous interest and practice, as well as promoting the visibility of its creativity at the national and international levels;
- R.3: Coherent and feasible safeguarding measures including legislation, awareness raising, training and documentation are demonstrated with the community’s efforts and national and local governmental support;
- R.4: The element was nominated with the participation of the Association for the Conservation of Techniques for Echigo-jofu, Ojiya-chijimi-fu and includes evidence of their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: The element is inscribed as an Important Intangible Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
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