One of Japan's artisans deemed a national treasure, Taira Toshiko, has died. Taira devoted her life to restore and develop technology of Okinawa's traditional textile, "bashofu." She was 101.
Taira was born in 1921 in the village of Ogimi in Okinawa. She learned from her mother how to weave cotton and silk fabrics. Taira then moved to Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture and studied textile technology from Tonomura Kichinosuke, who was a leader of a folk craft movement.
After returning to Okinawa, she started working to restore the local textile technology of bashofu. The centuries-old technology was in danger of extinction in the aftermath of World War Two due to the absence of young people willing to take up the traditional knowhow.
Bashofu, known for its airy feel, is woven with threads made from Japanese banana-like plants, named basho.
Taira headed a group dedicated to restoring the bashofu textile technology, and worked to train younger textile workers, while she continued to produce original works.
In 2000, in recognition of the high level of artistry involved in her works, the Japanese government designated Taira a holder of an important intangible cultural asset, popularly known as a living national treasure.
Even after turning 100, she kept working as a mentor at a training facility for young textile workers.
People close to her say that Taira was found dead at her home on Tuesday.


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