2013 No.11


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Strolling JapanStrolling Japan


Okinawa, Islands of Cloth

okinawa map

Left: Colorful bingata kimono.
Above: Stencil used in bingata dyeing.

Left: After the first painting, additional color is applied in the re-painting process. This second painting increases the vibrancy of the color to create a sense of translucence through the rubbing of natural dye into the cloth.
Right: Isagawa Yoko, a leading bingata artisan working today.

If bashofu is the quintessential cloth of Okinawa, bingata (literally "red style"), which uses stencils and other methods, is the quintessential dyeing technique on the islands. Sophisticated quality bingata fabric was worn by the royal family of Ryukyu, who ruled Okinawa at one time. The vivid bingata hues are achieved with an initial painting (shading) followed by a re-painting step that involves rubbing the paint into the cloth and then a second dyeing with natural dyes.

Colorfully dyed bingata fabric embodies the dazzling Okinawan sun beautifully. The bright sunlight and infinitely blue sea are Okinawa's great points of appeal. The idyllic beaches of this southern climate invite visitors to swim and scuba dive in the sea. A trip to the lively Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium offers a great chance to marvel at massive whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures of the Pacific Ocean and the Okinawan sea. Take in the splendor of the former Ryukyu Kingdom with a visit to spots of historic interest such as Shurijo Castle, a World Heritage site.

A trip to Okinawa offers the ideal combination of seaside recreation, sightseeing, and the fascination of traditional textile arts.

The massive water tank of whale sharks is especially popular at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.

Shurijo Castle testifies to the splendor of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which once ruled Okinawa.

Okinawa cuisine has a special appeal all its own. Popular dishes include Okinawa soba, a noodle dish said to have the same origins as ramen; chanpuru, a stir-fry of vegetables and tofu; and awamori, a shochu liquor whose flavor deepens as it ages.

One of Japan's top resort areas, Okinawa offers spectacular vistas of blue sea as far as the eye can see.

Getting there
Take the limousine bus from Narita Airport to Haneda Airport (approx. 80 minutes), then fly from Haneda Airport to Naha Airport (150 minutes).
Alternatively, fly from Narita Airport to Naha Airport (3 hours).
Ogimi-son Bashofu Studio (Ogimi-son Bashofu Orimono Kobo) is a 150-minute drive from Naha Airport.
For more info
Okinawa Tourist Information Web Site: "Okinawa Story" (English, Chinese, Korean, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese)