Amami Oshima: Shaped by Adversity
*First broadcast on July 13, 2023.
Life in Amami Oshima was once so tough that the islanders devised a way to make a poisonous plant edible. Harsh circumstances nurtured their resilience and resourcefulness on a subtropical island that was ruled by different outside forces as the centuries passed. Folk music became a medium for private communication, and in secret they produced silk fabric with a distinctive black beauty. In the second of two episodes, Peter Barakan gets to the heart of Amami Oshima's unique culture.
Sugar cane juice is boiled to produce raw cane sugar, once a very valuable crop. In centuries past, outside rulers of Amami Oshima took sugar as a tax.
Sago palm has been a lifeline for Amami islanders during food shortages. Its fruit, poisonous if unprocessed, is used to make a starchy soup.
Hard work in muddy water plays a key role in producing the beautiful black silk called Oshima Tsumugi, a textile unique to Amami Oshima that has a great international reputation.