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RE: Ainu "Attus" Ceremonial Garment/Jacket

The Ainu were an indigenous people of Japan whose intermarried descendants today live in the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Ainu culture is historically different from Japanese culture, and their traditional clothing differs as well.

Attus jackets made for ceremonial wear were decorated on the back and around the sleeves with applique designs. Indigo cotton fabric was used which had been embroidered in animistic ceremonial patterns usually made distinct with light color heavy threads. The applique and embroidery hand-work was always the responsibility of the Ainu women. From mother to daughter, this unique practice was handed down from each female generation to the next.

The Ainu made attus jackets out of bast fibers taken from the Hokkaido Japanese elm. First, the Elm tree's bark is removed. Then the bast fibers are pulled from the inner bark and soaked in water to soften. Some time later, the fibers are removed from the water and set in the sun to bleach. After the fibers are thoroughly dry, the thick fibers are split into long, fine strands. The strands are spun into thick threads and then hand woven into a rather firm, almost hard cloth. This finished fabric is a loosely woven, stiff cloth with a brownish color. The original Attus jackets were fashioned solely from this elm bast fiber but then in the mid-1800s, Japanese traders from the South introduced cotton fabric, mostly indigo, to the Ainu who immediately embraced the unknown fabric and began incorporating it into their ceremonial attus elm cloth jackets.