Kamakura Yoshitaro

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A photo of Nakagusuku udun, taken by Kamakura in the 1920s
  • Born: 1898/10/9
  • Died: 1983/8/3
  • Japanese: 鎌倉芳太郎 (Kamakura Yoshitarou)

Kamakura Yoshitarô was a 20th century traditional textile artist, designated a Living National Treasure for his skill at the traditional art of katazome, or resist-dyeing. Kamakura was also an influential scholar of Okinawan history, publishing works on bingata (Okinawan resist-dyeing textile arts) and other aspects of Okinawan culture and history, as well as numerous photographs of historical sites in Okinawa. He also amassed a very significant collection of historical documents and artifacts. Much of his original handwritten notes remain in the Okinawa Prefectural University of the Arts (Okinawa Geidai) Library or other collections today; much of these, a mixture of direct transcriptions of Ryûkyû Kingdom documents and Kamakura's own thoughts or interpretations, have also been published in modern type, as Kamakura Yoshitarô shiryôshû.[1]

Originally from Kagawa prefecture, Kamakura graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1921, and taught at the Okinawa Prefectural Number One Girls' High School & Normal School for the next two years (from May 1921 until March 1923). During that time, he engaged in extensive research into Okinawan culture. He returned to Tokyo in April 1924 and re-enrolled in the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, in order to continue his research; learning two months later of plans to tear down Shuri castle, he joined up with Itô Chûta, professor of architecture at Tokyo Imperial University, to campaign for the castle's preservation. Over the next three years (into 1927), he traveled to Okinawa several times, conducting surveys of Okinawan art, including taking copious notes and numerous photographs of historical architecture and art objects. He organized exhibitions of Okinawan art in Tokyo in 1925 and 1928 which included objects from the private collections of Ifa Fuyû, Okada Saburôsuke, and others, and which are said to have inspired artists such as Kikuchi Keigetsu.[2]

Kamakura writes that he took roughly 1500 photos in 1924-25, and another 500 in 1925-27; of these he writes that more than 500 were lost in the Tokyo Air Raids during World War II, but that over 1000 survived. Most, or all, were on glass negatives.[3]

Though much of Kamakura's materials were lost when he lost his home to fires in 1945, some 81 volumes[4] of his notes and photographs stored at the School of Fine Arts survived, and remain vital resources today.

Kamakura continued his research after the war, and in 1973 was named a Living National Treasure, as holder of knowledge on kata-e-zome (stencil dyeing) techniques. His photographs, today in the collection of the Okinawa Prefectural University of the Arts, were designated Important Cultural Properties in 2005. The University also holds over 1,400 katagami (stencils for bingata designs), many of which come from Kamakura's collection.[2]


  • "Kamakura Yoshitarô," Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia, Ryukyu Shimpo, 1 March 2003.
  • Gallery labels, Fujukan Museum, University of the Ryukyus.[1]
  1. Okinawa kenritsu geijutsu daigaku fuzoku kenkyûsho 沖縄県立芸術大学附属研究所 (eds.), Kamakura Yoshitarô shiryôshû 鎌倉芳太郎資料集, 2002-2015 (five volumes).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nitta Setsuko, "Oppression of and Admiration for Okinawan Textiles: Commercial Items and Art Objects," Okinawan Art in its Regional Context symposium, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 10 Oct 2019.
  3. Kamakura Yoshitarô, "Hôdanka ni ushinawareta Ryûkyû no meiga" 「砲弾下に失われた琉球の名画」、Kobijutsu 36 (1972), 42.
  4. Kamakura Yoshitarô shiryôshû (nôto hen), vol. 4, Naha: Okinawa University of the Arts (2016), xxviii.