Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Ryukyu Bingata Dyeing

Location: Naha City and the vicinity, Okinawa Pref. 

 Number of companies: 19 

 Number of workers: 97 



Dyed Textiles Glowing with the Vivid Colors of the Southern Isles  

Bingata is a traditional dyeing technique originated in Okinawa Prefecture. Shuri was located the castle of the Kingdom of Ryukyu that spanned from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Here the dyeing technique originated as a means of patterning the textiles that were used to make women's formal clothing or robes worn in indigenous religious ceremonies. During the 15th century various dyeing techniques were brought to the Ryukyu Islands through trade with China and Southeast Asia. Subsequently, these techniques developed their own distinctive characteristics in the climate and culture of Okinawa and evolved into the unique Bingata technique. Textiles reflecting the brightness of the southern isles are produced through vivid coloring. Designs incorporate three-dimensional perspectives and are reminiscent of picture painting, while motifs may be mixed without regard for the seasons and are often all combined into a single design. The designs convey the open-heartedness of the people of Okinawa, as well as the high level of artistry and craftsmanship.  

Both pigments and vegetable dyes are applied by hand, mainly to cotton and linen textile. Red sets the tone for the more colorful Bingata designs, while deep blue patterns provide a cooler feel. A distinctive technique involves the use of stencils that are cut to match the design. These are placed on the cloth and used to demarcate the areas to be dyed; and create a unique three-dimensional feeling and warmth that comes with handcrafting skills. In another technique, the artisans draw patterns directly onto the cloth and dye without the use of stencils, representing dynamic drawing characteristic of handwriting. 

Photos: A kimono made of Ryukyu Bingata (Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau).  

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited. 

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