As a Millennial, I am always amazed by how my generation continues to create a world within their own image. Yet, what does this mean? Does it involve protesting? Being rebellious and outspoken? Or just finding a niche to fulfill? In a way, it is all those things, and much more. While we won’t see Millennials fighting for higher wages, we will see them working within various Non Profits and NGO’s which aim to create a meaningful impact. This is particularly true for Yuka Hidaka who serves as an ambassador for Oshima Tsumugi; one of Japan’s traditional kimonos. After participating in a study abroad program in the U.S. Yuka realized how special her own culture was and how important it was to preserve it. Since earning her title in 2015, Yuka has worked tirelessly to generate awareness about Oshima Tsumugi within Japan’s youth. Below is my interview with Yuka Hidaka whom I am proud to call my longtime friend and old college roommate. Please share and leave a comment below!
Can you please introduce yourself, state where you’re from and the name of the Program you are involved with?
Hi! My name is Yuka Hidaka and I’m from Kagoshima, Japan.
I was chosen to be an Ambassador for Oshima Tsumugi in 2015 while participating in a beauty pageant at the Oshima Tsumugi Festival, held in Kagoshima, Japan. The festival was organized by Homba Oshima Tsumugi Orimono Cooperative Society, which aims to spur popularity of Oshima Tsumugi within today’s youth.
Can you please explain what Oshima Tsumugi is?
Oshima Tsumugi is a special kind of textile which possesses deep elegant colors and requires highly sophisticated skills to weave. It is produced within the Amami-islands as well as the Kagoshima city area. It is also referred to as a kimono. The textile is a silk fabric whose wrap and weft are pre-dyed. Oshima Tsumugi’s fabric is much softer and lighter when compared to other kinds of kimono’s but it is still comfortable and warm to wear during the winter.
There are several kinds of Oshima Tsumugi:
- Doro (mud) Oshima,
- Shou Ai (indigo) Oshima,
- Doro Ai Oshima,
- Kusa Ki Zome (plant-dyeing) Oshima,
- Iro (color) Oshima and
- Shiro (white) Oshima.
The threads of Doro Oshima, for example, are dyed with plant dyes, and dipped in muddy water rich in iron to dye into the deep dark brown color. This alternate process is called “Doro Zome (mud-dyeing).”
What is your main responsibility as an ambassador for Oshima Tsumugi?
My main task includes wearing Oshima Tsumugi in public and doing a great PR job! I occasionally participate in various cultural events and fashion shows where I am required to walk down a cat walk. I also believe being a good role model of Satsuma Ogojo (a woman of Kagoshima) is an important role for me. Cultural mannerisms are highly valued in Japanese society—and women in Japan, are no exception. They are expected to have a graceful appearance and attitude at all times.
How did you become involved with Oshima Tsumugi and Why?
Through a exchange program at the University of Georgia. I learned a lot about my own background while visiting the U.S. and realized how much my own culture influences the way I think, feel, and act. I began to appreciate the Japanese culture a bit more and found myself in love with it. Since then I started to conduct my own research on kimonos and felt that it was important for me to share its significance with the next generation. In 2015, I was selected as a participant for the Youth Leadership Program, which is supported by U.S. Department of State, and had the opportunity to hone in on my leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Once the program was completed I decided to follow my passion. Since Oshima Tsumugi is one of the key industry in my hometown, Kagoshima, I thought it would be great idea to represent it and signed up for the beauty pageant.
How has being and ambassador for Oshima Tsumugi affected your perspective on your culture and/or identity?
Being involved with Oshima Tsumugi has really helped me develop my own identity as “Kagomma Jin”, which means “a citizen of Kagoshima”, rather than “a citizen of Japan”. Learning about my own culture has not only allowed me to value and respect other cultures but to also learn more about my own roots and history.
Do you believe Millennials would be interested in what you’re doing? Why or Why not?
Our traditions have made us who we are today, and they are parts of ourselves. I believe it is important for all of us to value our own culture. As a millennial myself, I believe we as a generation face a tough task of saving our own culture and traditions, which are at times lost within the “global” society.
We are facing the loss of our identities and I might be exaggerating a bit, but it is our traditions and customs which make us unique and who we are today.
They are a part of us and its is important for all of us to value our own culture.
What are some daily challenges you face as an ambassador for Oshima Tsumugi?
Since I teach during the day I have to work twice as hard to convince people that I’m still a public servant. I often encounter a sense of dissatisfaction among people who see me modeling kimonos. They claim that I am not properly performing my job as a teacher. I also feel frustrated when Millennials show little interest in Oshima Tsumugi. Oshima Tsumugi is really one of a kind, and it is expensive for a reason. Most of them are still handmade, and it requires an unimaginable amount of effort. So, I would say attracting the youth’s interest is my biggest challenge, However, Oshima Tsumugi is not strictly limited to kimonos, as we also carry other items such as business card holders and ties which are often more affordable than kimonos.
What’s a great way for Millennials to get involved in your program or start learning about Oshima Tsumugi? Do you have a link? Are you on social media or YouTube?
Just look up #Oshima Tsumugi on Instagram or Twitter. You can also follow me on Instagram: uca322.
There are also countless videos on TouTube which feature the making of Oshima Tsumugi.
However, the best way is to learn more about Oshima Tsumigiis to visit Kagoshima, Japan!
What advice do you have for Millennials who are eager to learn about a new culture?
In today’s world it is easy to look up information on the Internet without moving an inch. However, if you’re really interested in learning about a new culture just hop on a plane! Take the time to truly immerse yourself, talk to the people, and enjoy the music and alcohol. Culture is something you cannot learn through the Internet. It is something you cannot fully explain in words—you feel the atmosphere and learn by experiencing it yourself.