Minsa Weaving Craft Centre Tour and Workshop
To go beyond the marine related tourism in Ishigaki Island and learn about a tradition as old as the Ryukyu Era, why not take a break from the beach and visit the Minsa Kogei Kan (Craft Centre) in Ishigaki City; with a guided tour, get a closer look at the production process of minsa weaving, learn about its history, and even try out making some of the fabric yourself. The craft centre tour and weaving experience can be divided in four areas and steps respectively, with the whole experience taking from 20 minutes to 5 hours depending one what you choose to do.
First, the tour takes you past the factory area where local artists can be seen taking part in the fabric production process. You can witness the thread dyeing and the actual weaving as you walk through this part of the centre. The guide will also take you out to the front lawn where not only can you see the thread as it dries in the shade, but right next to the hut, you can touch the plants that make all this possible.
On the second floor, the museum area showcases the history of minsa weaving and curious facts about the technique. For example, the iconic "itsu yo" logo which is present on all the products goes back over 400 years ago and was created during the Ryukyu Era. You’ll also learn that thanks to Kinue-san, the founder of the Azamiya Corporation, Minsa weaving was rescued from near extinction and the tradition kept alive. She is still around and at 92 yrs old still shares her knowledge with the local craftsmen.
Then there is the workshop area. Here, Minsa Kogei Kan offers visitors the chance to put their artistic skills to the test and try out traditional weaving. Four different weaving courses are offered. For 1,500 yen you can make a coaster; for 2,500 take a shot at making a small table centre; or a larger one for 3,500 yen. Making these pieces will take you between 20 minutes to 90 minutes depending on what you choose. If you are feeling daring, you can then try out the tapestry course which will take between 4 to 5 hours and cost 8,500 yen. Keep in mind that the workshops are only available in Japanese, and that the finished products cannot be mailed to you. Whatever you end up making can be picked up the following day so if you are planning on taking any of the weaving courses it would be wise to do the at the beginning of your stay in Ishigaki.
For those who do not have the time join the weaving workshops but still want to take one or several of these exquisite products home, the craft centre has a shop with the newest designs as well as the more traditional pieces. You can find “obi” similar to those used by the locals when wearing kimonos, beautiful shirts, bag, coasters, etc. The options are endless to walk away with an iconic omiyage for less of what you would pay outside of Ishigaki.