“Amami for me is an enchanting microcosm of Japan. I could dig deep into the worlds of both the sea and the mountain, and there are distinct cultures in the north and the south. It’s the ninth year since I came back, and I haven’t had a single boring moment. In fact, I make a new discovery every day.”
Hitoshi Shimazaki is the owner of Amami Oshima-based outdoor wear brand Devadurga. He was born and raised on Amami Oshima island and made a U-turn back from Tokyo. After graduating from high school, Shimazaki joined the Japan Self-Defense Forces but left only two years later. Because his real passion since middle school and high school was clothing, at the age of 20, he moved to Tokyo and took a job at a streetwear shop in Harajuku. While working hard, he also devoted his time to serious mountaineering. As a member of the Kanda Mountaineering Club, he accomplished long-distance treks, conquered snow-capped peaks in the dead of winter, and experienced countless other hard routes. When he eventually decided to launch his own clothing brand, it seemed natural to try his hand at outdoor wear.
“Outdoor attire was slowly turning into a big trend, though, and I felt it wasn’t my thing to compete by making heavy-duty climbing jackets. I wanted to do something original. So I revisited my roots and arrived at Amami’s dorozome—mud dyeing. It’s a traditional technique of textile dyeing that uses only natural materials, and I thought it would be cool to apply it to outdoor wear.”
Oshima Tsumugi is a traditional textile from Amami Oshima with a history believed to stretch back 1,300 years. An essential component of the textile culture is dorozome, a singular dyeing technique originating on the island. The dorozome process uses a wild native plant known as sharinbai (Yeddo hawthorn) and the island’s iron-rich mud, plus a stupendous amount of labor. The textile thus created has excellent moth-repellent and odor-resistant qualities, and wonderfully nuanced colors and textures that age well over time.
Shimazaki launched Devadurga, his brand of dorozome outdoor wear, in Tokyo around 2010 and steadily built a fan base with his fresh concept and range of products. In 2014, he and his wife migrated back to Amami Oshima in search of a more ideal place for raising their child. In 2015, he opened the first Devadurga flagship and select shop, Gunacrib, in Naze in downtown Amami City. The stylish shop cuts a striking figure in the cozy, rustic port-area shopping district.
Since his return, Shimazaki has organized Amami Oshima’s first camp festival and continued to enjoy all sorts of mainly outdoor activities on top of managing his brand and shop. His personal taste, by the way, has shifted from the mountain to the sea. Nearly every evening after closing shop, he goes spearfishing in the dark waters. And because he has obtained fishery rights, in the morning, he goes the market and sells his catch wholesale before heading to the shop. Shimazaki says he owes his unique lifestyle of half fisherman, half X to the generous nature of Amami.
“Back in Tokyo, I had to travel two or three hours for any sort of outdoor recreation. Here in Amami, both the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean are within reach. If the conditions weren’t right to approach the East China Sea, for instance, the Pacific is only thirty minutes away, and I could easily go and find a point there. I appreciate the island all the more because I once left it for the city. If I hadn’t left, I probably wouldn’t play like I do now. Really, there’s never a boring moment!”
Fish motifs are a frequent feature of Devadurga products lately. The rich gifts of Amami’s nature promise to go on inspiring Shimazaki’s work and play.
11-7 Itsubu-cho, Naze, Amami-shi