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Miyako’s Fine Fabric, Strong Alcohol and Optomistic Spirit

By: David Michael

Date Posted: 2000-07-14

I’ve always enjoyed wandering in the wilds. Solitude in a beautiful land can focus one’s attention on what’s most important. “ God-Life-Family” If Natural beauty ‘turns you on’, then you are lucky to reside within the Ryukyu Archipelago. Recently, I re-visited the island of Miyako. Miyako rests 188 miles southwest of Naha Airport. By plane the trip takes less than one hour (usually). But my favorite mode of transportation is by ship. Tomari Port’s schedule changes monthly, but there’s a usually 2-3 weekly departures from Tomari Port at Naha. The best run to get on departs Tomari Port at 9:00 PM and arrives in Hirara Port at 7:00 AM the following day. The crews of these vessels are competent professionals, with complete understanding of the coral reefs throughout the waters that surround us. The passenger quarters are public-domain, but interesting. The night trips are cooler and so are the passengers.

Upon arrival the first thing you’ll require is transportation and the taxi drivers know this--- they’ll be waiting for you.

The Main industry of Miyako is tourism and because of this the price and variety of hotels, inns, hostels and pensions are plentiful. The people of Miyako play and work hard. There’s a drinking game indigenous to Miyako called “Otorii”. Try not to get involved with it! The dialect of Miyako is indigenous as well, but the only word in the dialect that’s important is Thank You, which is: “Tandi ga Tandi”. The natives of Miyako understand proper Japanese, but they are at home and “when in Rome…”

Two Special commodities from Miyako are Awamori, Ryukyu-style alcohol and Miyako Jofu, cloth fabric.

Awamori is a distilled liquor made from rice. Awamori is a local Okinawan liquor not found in mainland Japan. It is less sweet and considerably more potent than Japanese Sake. It is said to be well-suited to the subtropical climate here. And it seldom if ever leaves you with a hangover. The largest selling and highest quality awamori in Okinawa comes from Miyako. If you find the old-style awamori hard to acquire a taste for, try some of the newly-developed ‘mild’ brands.

Miyako Jofu Cloth. For 400 years this premium quality fabric has been produced only in Miyako. Jofu is of such high quality that, in the days of the old Ryukyuan Kingdom, tax tribute to the King was paid in Jofu cloth. The King, in turns, used this fine cloth to pay his tribute to China, where the cloth was in high demand. In more recent times, Jofu has taken first prize in textile competition throughout the world. Jofu is a delicate fabric, soft to the touch and extremely cool in summer.

It is well suited to hot, humid weather. The factories that produce Jofu allow visitors to witness the long and intricate process required to produce this fine fabric. Miyako Jofu has been officially designated a National Treasure.

Please keep in mind, anything that’s been designated a “National Treasure” in Japan is expensive. To have a Kimono made fro Jofu cloth will cost big bucks. However, wall-hangings are available in Jofu. These too are expensive, yet these items make great gifts for wives or mothers. I love the people of Miyako! They remind me of myself.

An interesting fact. Miyako was once used as a place of exile. Still the people never give up hope. There’s a spirit in Miyako called “Aragama” (local dialect). The translation of this is the knowledge and understanding of optimism toward the future.

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