Nibutani-Attus (bark fiber fabric)

Today, we are at Nibutani 二風谷, a district located in the town of Biratori in Hokkaido, Japan to explore the crafts created by Ainu people - the indigenous people of Japan.

Nibutani-Attus (bark fiber fabric) and Nibutani-Ita (wooden trays) are the two well-loved crafts that are only produced in the Nibutani region. Both crafts have been listed as traditional by METI. Our focus today will be on Nibutani-Attus and we will showcase the uniqueness of how the attus アットゥシ fabric is handmade. We are truly inspired because it deeply depicts the longstanding interwoven relationship between human and nature. Furthermore, the fabric itself is lovely to wear because it ages and becomes softer over time.

The threads of the fabric are made using the natural bark fibers of the Manchurian elm and Japanese elm. The barks are peeled off the tree, the rough barks removed, to reveal the inner bark which are further torn into 2mm-wide strands. The strands are then tied together, stretched, twisted and finally woven onto a loom called Attus Karape. Watch the video below to see how the craftsmen peel off the barks from the tree. 

Attus was produced in many parts of Hokkaido, however, several regions namely the northern, eastern, Iburi and watershed of the Saru River (in the Hidaka region) became the main production area during the Edo Period. Attus was a popular material worn by people in the herring fishing industry and sailors of the Kitamae ships travelling between the Honshu and Ezo-chi due to its breathable, durable and water-resistant fabric. Attus is also worn by actors during Kabuki performances. During the Edo period, Nibutani-Attus was used in trade involving other regions.

We will also take you on a tour to discover the rich culture and history of the Ainu indigenous people, who brought you this amazing craft and yet are battling for survival similar to many indigenous populations of the world.

📷 Credits to Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyoma Square

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