1300年の伝統、大島紬織元 原絹織物株式会社 仁左エ門工房です。奄美大島は、大島紬のふるさとです。


文:リチャーズ イアン
写 真:浜田耕作
訳:リチャーズ 和子

  Amami Oshima, the semi-tropical island at the bottom of Japan's archipelago, appears more like Jamaica than Japan at first blink. Ian Richards slips, slops and slaps and tries assimilating with the people on this offshore idyll.
 My Air New Zealand flight has drifted into New Kansai Airport and I'm in Osaka--sort of. The airport, known as Kanku to locals, is on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, and the terminal itself is a sight: an airy, earthquake-tested building of glass and grey metal. Kanku had just opened when Kobe was levelled, and it came through without a scratch. But I'm not stopping. I collect my bags and fly down to a small island, Amami Oshima, in the southern tail below Japan's main island chain. Amami is near Okinawa, it's semi-tropical and so off the beaten track that even Japanese people have trouble locating it. "Oh yes," they say, after some thought and, "No, I've never been there".

 奄美大島は沖縄の近くにある亜熱帯性の島。観光のメッカから少々離れた奄美は日本人でさえその位 置を知らないこともある。「あぁ、あぁ」、しばらく考えてこの答えが返ってくる。「いや、行ったことないよ」。

 Clockwise from top: The well-built locals enjoy partying; this side of the island faces the East China Sea, where coral and tropical fish abound; showing local kindergarten children the deadly habu snake at the Habu Centre; there's lots of beautiful rainforest on Amami Osima, but it's also home to the aggressive habu snake.

 I'm on a jet again, but it still takes an hour and a half from Kanku. We fly in over the bright, blue water. Seeing Amami Oshima's tip from the air, the island seems small--but at 720 square kilometres and with a population of 80,000, it is really quite large.

 The dry heat hits me as soon as I step off the plane. It's the middle of July and 33 degrees. I soon find that even the locals can't stand the heat. Almost every conversation I have over the next few days begins with, "Isn't it hot!" A bus driver sympathises with me when he sees the sweat dripping from my chin. "So this temperature is unusual?" I ask.
 "Oh no." He grins. "It's nothing for summer."
 As we drive into the main town, Naze City, about 30 minutes away, I think I've mistakenly arrived in Jamaica. We pass sugarcane fields, traditionally Amami's most important crop. White sands and blue water are never far away. Roadside stalls selling giant watermelons operate by the honesty-box system.

 The Amami people have big brown eyes and heavy eyebrows, they're short and quite stocky. Most of the men look like natural rugby players, which is why there's no loan sharking on the island.
 I learn later the story about some gangsters from the mainland who turned up a few years ago and lent out their money at high interest rates. When the heavies started intimidating people, by forcing their way into apartments, they found the homes packed with solid brothers and cousins--and friends of brothers and cousins. After a few battles the gangsters went back to the big smoke-empty-handed. True or not, it's a good story and illustrates how unfazed these island people are.

 Amami is on the summer typhoon belt and, when supply ships can't get through, ice-cream and beer are the produce which tends to run short. The people are pretty laid-back, things run more or less on time, but if you're late, it doesn't matter. Outsiders are assimilated in about five minutes. I'm off the bus and wandering through Chuodouri, Naze's main shopping arcade, when a little boy tugs at my sleeve. "Hey," he says, "you've got a funny face." It's not a criticism, just a comment.
 "That's because I'm a foreigner," I say. "Oh, I see," he nods and goes on his way.
 再びジェット機に乗り込んだ。伊丹空港から約1時間30分、これまで見たことのないようなキラキラと輝く青い海の上空に来ると機体はやがて沖合に突き出た滑走路に着陸した。面 積720平方キロメートル、人口8万人の島。滑走路用に海を埋め立てるほど面 積は狭くない。飛行機から降りるとすぐに乾いた暑熱が私を襲った。


 奄美の人々の容貌にも特別 なものがある。大きな黒い瞳、濃い眉毛、さほど高くはないががっしりとした体つき。島の男達のほとんどが生まれつきのラグビー選手のようだ。
 あとでこんな話を耳にした。奄美にサラ金金融業が無いその理由だ。数年前本土から暴力団員が数名島にやってきて、高金利で金を貸し出した。暴力団員が借入者を脅かして取り立てをしようと家に押し入るとそこには借入者の兄弟、従兄弟そしてその兄弟や従兄弟の友人達が待っていた。誰もが本土の暴力団員よりよっぽど体格がいい。数度となくもめたが、結局暴力団まがいの金融業者は手ぶらで本土へ帰っていった。 嘘か本当かは定かではないが、奄美の人々の何事にも動じない様がよく現れていて気に入っている。事はだいたい時間通 りに運ばれるが、遅れても誰も気にする様子はない。「どうせのんびりしていたのだから」と言ってくれる。

 奄美は夏の「台風銀座」といわれ、そのために貨物船の入港ができなくなる事もありアイスクリームやビールが不足する。5分もあればよそ者でさえ島にすぐなじめる。バスを降り、名瀬の中心ショッピング街、中央通 りを歩いていると、小さな男の子が私の袖を引っ張った。「ねぇ、やぁの顔へんど」これは批判ではなく彼の意見。おそらく私の顔が奇妙に見えたのだろう。「それはね、私は外国人だからだよ」「ええ、そうねぇ」子供は頷き向こうへ行ってしまった。

 Amami is a secret. The locals discuss developing tourism so that the island can become the crowded, big-bucks, beach-disco that Okinawa is--and then go home and forget about it. They'd rather go fishing, or swimming, or visit friends--and so they've kept their paradise intact.
 That said, Amami is a secret Mecca for Japan's most dedicated fishermen and scuba divers, and many of them stay at the Caretta Hotel, where I've booked a room. It's a pleasant, white-walled complex just out of town, and with a 25m pool right beside Ashitoku beach. The hotel hires out jet-skiing, water-skiing, snorkelling and scuba-diving equipment, and you can arrange to have lessons. A glass-bottomed boat is also available for those who don't want to get their feet wet.

 But I'm the lazy sort and so head off to the beach with just my towel and sun block--an absolute necessity in the dazzling sunlight--and my hat, sunglasses, sandals, Walkman, book and money for cold beer. Ah, the simple life! I change in the dressing rooms and stride out onto the sand...and for the first time in my life I'm ashamed of my body. It seems to have turned into an over-sized, over-white, hairy monstrosity among all these well-built, tanned, hairless locals. I'm not fitting in as well as I'd hoped, but I realise that everyone here is unfazed--foreigners probably look like that with their clothes off.

 The next day I go to Ohama, one of the island's two main beaches. To get there I go by bus, which has to travel over a huge hill, giving a wonderful view of the beach stretched out below. Kids are jumping about in the shallows. Coral colours the water and a few brave tropical fish swim among the human company. After a day spent relaxing on the beach, I watch the sun set over the water in a gorgeous display of colour. After dark the stars spread out in the sky like a map. I'm told that a jazz band plays here on Tuesday evenings, provided...er, the boys are in the mood to jam.


 奄美は日本の熱心な釣師やスキューバーダイバー達にとって隠れたメッカとなっている。そして多くの釣師やダイバーが私の宿泊するホテル、カレッタ・ハウスに泊まっていた。カレッタ・ハウスは郊外にある白壁の建物のホテル。25メートルのプールもホテルの庭にあるが、すぐそばには芦徳海岸がある。ホテルではジェットスキー、水上スキー、シュノーケル、スキューバーダイビング用器具を貸し出しているし、レッスンも受けることができる。足をぬ らすのが嫌なら、底がガラスでできているボートも貸してくれる。


 翌日、大きな海水浴場の一つの大浜へ出かけた。大浜へ行くにはバスで大きな山を越えなければならない。バスで山を登った。そこからはすばらしい眺めで、遠く下の方には砂浜が広がっている。浅瀬では子供たちが飛び回っている。海底にはたくさんの珊瑚礁 。熱帯魚たちが泳ぐ人の周りに無邪気にも近づいてくる。浜辺には小さな店が並び、水族館さえある。私は浜で一日ゆっくり過ごした。水面 に沈む夕日が鮮やかな色を放っている。あたりが暗くなると夜空にはたくさんの星が地図のように広がる。毎週火曜の夜にはここでジャズの演奏があると聞いた…ジャズがひきたくなるのもよくわかる。

As we drive into the main town, Naze City, about 30 minutes away, I think I've mistakenly arrived in Jamaica. We pass sugar-cane fields, traditionally Amami's most important crop. White sands and blue water are never far away. Roadside stalls selling giant watermelons operate by the honesty-box system.
 As I wander down Naze's Sansan Street the next day, a man nods and says, "Isn't it hot!" "It sure is!" I respond, "how do you beat this kind of heat?" "Boxer shorts," he says and walks on. But there are other ways, and the best one is to eat a Shirokuma. I order one at the Serina coffee shop. Shirokuma means "polar bear". I don't understand the translation until it's brought to my table: a large bowl heaped with shaved ice, smothered in condensed milk and garnished with tropical fruit. I attack my bear with gusto, and about halfway through I'm so chilly that I'm looking forward to getting outside again, away from the air-conditioning.
 On the plane to Amami I lost my nerve and asked another passenger if I could get a Big Mac on the island. "Oh no," he said. "There's no McDonald's." But I need not have worried. Amami's speciality is a chicken dish called Keihan. I order one at Caretta Hotel's restaurant and eat it poolside. At first, Keihan is nothing to look at: individual piles of shredded chicken, chopped mushrooms and egg, and diced spring onion, lemon peel, papaya pickles, ginger and dried seaweed. Put them all on top of a bowl of rice, add hot chicken soup, and presto! It's delicious.
 Keihan is Japanese, but has a touch of Chinese influence--just like Amami Oshima, in fact. The relative isolation of Amami Oshima meant that Chinese influences continued long after they'd diffused in mainland Japan: the result is a unique culture.

 Amami Oshima is also home to one of the world's deadliest snakes: the habu. Although not quite the world's most venomous snake--as if you'd care if one bites you--it's by far the most aggressive. Instead of fearing large creatures, a habu will hunt anything with a body temperature higher than its own: including humans. That's the reason why I've given up all thought of hiking through the beautiful green hills behind Naze City. The locals tell me that only someone with a death-wish would wander up there. Habu have kept the environment pristine, but dangerous. I'm assured that none are ever seen in town--although it must be said, I distinctly detected a twinkle in the eyes of the man who assured me.

 To get to grips with this man-eating snake business, I visit the Habu Centre, near Naze's harbour. The Centre puts on a show about the snake several times each day. The basement contains grisly pictures of snakes and victims, and in enclosures real, diamond-backed habu, which can grow up to two metres long, are on display. I troop upstairs with some other tourists as the show starts. We sit around a glass case that has a mongoose inside. The show begins when the presenter opens a wooden box and throws a live habu near us onto the floor. I join my fellow tourists halfway up the back wall. Eventually we're coaxed back down when the snake is pinned. Later the habu is put into the glass case and fights the mongoose--to death.
 Mongooses, which can attack faster than a snake can coil and strike, were introduced by US servicemen during the occupation.

 名瀬市のサンサン通 りを歩くと一人の男性が軽く会釈をして、「暑いね」と言った。「そうですね。この暑さどうやってしのげばいいですか?」と私が尋ねると、「トランクス」と言って男は向こうの方へ歩いていった。しかしこの暑さをしのぐ方法は他にもある。一つは「白熊」を食べること。名瀬アーケード街内の瀬里奈コーヒーショップで「白熊」を注文した。「白熊」は北極熊の意味。「白熊」がテーブルに運ばれてきてその意味がわかった。練乳のたっぷりかかった山盛りのかき氷の上に果 物がたくさん飾られている。舌鼓を打ちながら私の「熊」を攻撃した。半分ほど食べ終えた頃突然寒気がして、クーラーのかからない店外に出るのが待ち遠しく思えた。
 奄美への飛行機のなか、気後れしたが隣席に座る乗客に奄美でビックマックは買えるのかと聞いてみた。「とんでもない。マクドナルドはないよ」。しかし、心配はいらなかった。「鶏飯」という鶏を使った一風変わった料理が奄美にはある。カレッタハウスで注文してプールサイドで食べた。「鶏飯」の見た目はさほど特別 と言うわけではない。細かく裂かれたカシワ、細く切った椎茸、薄焼き玉 子、海苔、そして細かく刻んだネギ、レモン皮、パパイヤ漬け、ショウガ。しかしこれを茶碗いっぱいのご飯にたっぷりのせ、熱いカシワのスープをかける。驚くほど…美味い!
 鶏飯は日本食、だが少々中国の影響を感じる。実際、奄美大島全体がそうだ。本土から比較的遮断されてきたということは、中国の影響が本土では薄れてからもしばらく奄美では続き、その結果 奄美独特の文化が生まれたということになる。


 この人食い蛇のことを知るために、私は名瀬港近くのハブセンターへ出かけた。ハブについての説明と、ハブとマングースのショーが1日に数回行われる。地下にはハブとその犠牲者のぞっとするほど恐ろしい写 真が飾られている。囲いの中には背に菱形斑紋のある本物のハブが横たわる。全長2メートルになるものもいるらしい。ショーが始まるというのでそこに居合わせた観光客たちと一緒に上階へあがった。部屋の真ん中にはマングースの入ったガラスの箱があり、その箱を囲んで座る。ショーは、司会者が木箱を開けその中から生きたハブを捕りだし、私たち近くの床に放り出すというところから始まった。私は他の観光客に混じって箱から最も遠い後部座席に恐る恐る座っている。司会者がハブを捕らえると大いにホッとした。しばらくしてハブがガラス箱に入れられ、瀕死の状態になるまでマングースと戦った。

Amami is a secret. The locals discuss developing tourism so that the island can become the crowded, big-bucks, beach-disco that Okinawa is--and then go home and forget about it. They'd rather go fishing, or swimming, or visit friends--and so they've kept their paradise intact.
 But it's not just surf, Shirokuma and snakes on the island, there's also Oshima tsumugi: a type of kimono cloth for which Amami is famous. One of Japan's best modern painters, Isson Tanaka, lived in Naze and worked in the tsumugi industry. In order to understand Oshima tsumugi, I visit Mr Masahito Hara's tsumugi shop, Hara Kinuorimono. The shop is on the edge of Hatohama Harbour, and it supplies retail shops with the cloth, as well as selling directly to the public. The interior is mostly taken up by a tatami-mat floor on which guests can sit cross-legged, surrounded by bolts of tsumugi.   Mr Hara explains that Oshima tsumugi is made of silk, with a pattern elaborately woven into it by hand. Each pattern is unique. The colours come from dyeing the thread in Amami's iron-rich mud. Tsumugi kimonos usually have dark, restrained colours and are for casual or semi-formal wear--not like the bright Kyoto kimonos worn at weddings and parties. Around the shop, I can see many tsumugi with the geometric black-and-white patterns favoured by traditionalists. But there are also plenty of astonishingly subtle, modern designs, with the whole spectrum of colour.  A tsumugi kimono takes about six months to produce, made completely by hand, and costs about 150,000 yen--but can rise in price into the stratosphere. Cheaper, cotton yukata are available, too, which start at around 6000 yen . Just the thing for a summer festival.

 原氏は古代奄美ウクレレとでも言うべき「蛇味線」の名人だ…が、店内のステレオからはなぜかロック音楽が流れていた。大島紬は絹でできており様々な模様が織工達の手で精巧に織り込まれている、と原氏は説明してくれた。その模様は独特で、奄美の鉄分豊富な泥で染めていく。紬は通 常暗い地味な色に仕上がっており、お洒落着、よそ行き着にと楽しめる。結婚式やパーティーでよく見かける京都の着物とは違う趣がある。
 店内を見渡すと、伝統主義者達に大変好まれる白黒の幾何学模様の紬がある。スペクトルな色合いの驚くほど繊細で美しい近代的デザインもまたあちらこちらに見えた。一反の紬を作るには最低6ヶ月の月日が費やされ、すべて手作業で行われる。価格は15万円ぐらいのものからある。もちろん着物と言えばもっと安い綿でできた浴衣といわれるものもあり、6千円位 から手に入れることができる。夏祭りにおすすめだ。

Clockwise from top:
Celebrating the Naze Summer Festival with breathtaking pyrotechnics over the harbour; everyone is out to watch the festival's parade; cooling down at the beach on a baking hot day; dancers celebrate the diamond-backed habu with a snake dance.

リチャーズ イアン
 ニュージーランド生まれ。文学博士。代表著書に「Everyday Life in Paradise」「To Bed at Noon」等があり「To Bed at Noon」はニュージーランドの芥川賞ともいわれるモンタナアヲードのノンフィクション部門で優秀賞を受賞。
 浜田耕作氏の写 真との出会いは浜田氏の写 真集「亜熱帯のかたるしす」。奄美の美しさが浜田氏の手にかかると幻想的な輝きをもち私は大変感銘を受けた。今回の記事には是非浜田氏の写 真をということで連絡をとらせて頂くと、親切にもこころよく同意してくださった。この場をかりてお礼を申し上げたい。
三代目 仁左エ門の新作を展示紹介

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