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Waramu is a collective of straw artisans based in Iijima, Japan. The items they craft vary from new year ornaments, baskets and mats of every size, to festival effigies, religious offerings and Sumo wrestling rings.  Waramu is deeply rooted in the heritage of Ina valley where Iijima is located, and its members are locals. Their positive ethos aims to revitalize the local communities by reconnecting its weaving tradition to agribusiness, with sustainability at the core.

Originally started as non-profit Rice Bale Preservation Society, now the collective takes a form of social business. Apart from taking various commissions,  their projects include restoring abandoned rice paddies, repurposing waste produce, a rice bale marathon, workshops with school children and visitors, and supporting vulnerable young adults. 

Sakai Yuji, the founder, took at his mission to continue the endangered weaving craft, when he realized that straw-woven rice bales were not available even among rice farmers. Learning skills from the few surviving elders who are experts in the craft, Sakai's passion soon developed and he established himself as a prominent weaver. The Japan Sumo Association exclusively commissions Sakai to craft six grand tournament wrestling rings each year.  

The straw they use are all grown locally and responsively, most of them by members themselves. Some of them are special long stemmed variety native to the area.

Please read more interesting background stories, Rice, Marathon, and Deity Cat, on Journal.

Here are some video links to the activities of Waramu.

waramu bale.jpg
waramu nativerice.jpeg
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