Strands of bark from the linden tree are spun to create Shinaori, one of Japan’s oldest fabrics that is sometimes labelled as ‘primitive’ or ‘ancient’.
Before the cultivation of rice, the Japanese lived in harmony with the mountains and took naturally-occurring thread, wove it, and turned it into fabric.
Fiber from the linden tree first made an appearance in daily life in Japan as a sturdy rope. Rope was mainly made using straw following the cultivation of rice, however it originally used the wild fiber of naturally-occurring hemp or linden.
The characteristic sturdiness and strength of Shinaori, even when wet, made it perfect for a variety of daily necessities that were used for a range of purposes such as bedding, grain sacks, fishing nets, bags for storing herbs and spices, wallets, or hanten gowns.
The completely hands-on process begins with stripping the bark, and takes about one year to final product. The extremely labor-intensive job has seen Shinaori all but disappear throughout the country, only surviving in three villages on the border of Yamagata and Niigata prefectures.
Shina Weaving and Life in the Mountains
To Weave is to Live
The towns of Sekigawa, Ikazuchi, and Yamakumada where Shina is woven are surrounded by mountains deep in snow country, where they virtually become isolated islands in winter due to the heavy snowfall. It’s impossible for humans to live alone in such a harsh natural environment. Weaving is community-based, and co-operation supported the means for life. Fabric was so important, it was regarded as more important than food or housing. So much so, that it was said that ‘the number of pieces a woman could weave determined the number of people who could survive in a village’.
About the Fabric
There are around 30 varieties of the linden family that grow in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.
Its genus is Tilia, which means fiber or fabric.It is logical to assume that linden has been used in the other places it grows such as Europe, Russia, or China.
The Ancient Germanic peoples and the Slavs regarded linden as sacred, especially in Germany as trials were held below the branches of the linden, often becoming a symbol of the towns and villages in the process.
The Ancient Germanic peoples and the Slavs regarded linden as sacred, especially in Germany as trials were held below the branches of the linden, often becoming a symbol of the towns and villages in the process. The way we work in the east and the west is very similar, and the way ingenuity developed might even be the same. Linden is lovingly used in everyday life, and it would not be strange if Shina fabric also developed elsewhere.