Teddy bears made of abaca cloth preserve tradition

Abaca cloth, a traditional textile in Okinawa with hundreds of years of history since the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom, is still made in small workshops here and its weavers are constantly looking for new uses for the cloth.

Mieko Taira, a 68-year-old abaca weaver, is making teddy bears made of abaca cloth. The cloth is usually used for kimonos or obis, and her innovative idea to make teddy bears of the cloth has gained kudos from all over the world. She also thinks the new uses of the cloth would help in handing over the tradition to new generations.

The abaca cloth looks cool and light, and the material is durable. Since it’s one of the traditional textiles of Okinawa, it looks elegant. Taira, who is the chairman of Kijoka Bashoufu Business Association, says, “I know that there are many teddy bear collectors all over the world, and I have noticed a good response from them.”

An exhibition of Okinawan crafts was held in New York last November, and the three teddy bears on display sold for $1,000 each. Abaca cloth weavers are now preparing to continue producing and selling the teddy bears in order to spread the fame of the abaca cloth.