Naminoue-guu is a shrine that stands in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, and it is regarded as the main guardian of Okinawa. Naminoue (translated as “on top of waves”) is, as name suggests, located on the top of a hill overlooking the waters of the East China Sea.
There is no record of its foundation but it is said to have originated from a Niraikana belief, a utopia believed in Okinawa. In the 14th century, as a result of divine revelation, the Ryuukyuu government built the Namino-guu Shrine to honor the Kunamo Three Deities. The shrine was entirely destroyed in the Second World War, but it was restored due to the efforts of an association of people from Hawaii and Okinawa.
As visitors walk toward the entrance path and pass under two torii gates, they come to a towering vermillion building with a pair of stone-carved, vermilion-colored guardian dogs, one on each side. The dogs look similar to Seesaa, a legendary creature that drives evil spirits away. Inside the shrine complex there are two small shrines: Ukishima Shrine that worships Amaterasu-oomikami and Yomochi Shrine that worships the deity associated with business and industry. In the vicinity of the Naminoue-guu Shrine are Gokoku-ji Temple and Confucius Mausoleum. As it is also close to the town center, the shrine is a popular destination for residents and it attracts many visitors celebrating the New Year in Okinawa’s own original style.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
Zakimi gusuku was a castle located in Zakimi, Yomitan-son, Okinawa Pref. It was built in the early 15th century by the renowned Ryukyu military architect Gosamaru. It was a middle-sided castle with a circumference of 365 meters and an area of 7,385 square meters. From the excavated items, the castle is thought to have been abolished in the 16th century.
During the Battle of Okinawa in the World War II, it was used as an antiaircraft artillery base by the Japanese air forces, and in the postwar period as a radar station by the U.S. forces. After the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the preservation effort as a historic site was made. Up to the present the walls have been restored. The walls are said to be the oldest stone walls in Okinawa. The arched gate and its both sides are piled in orderly “Nuno-zumi” style (cloth piling), while the rest are piled up in “Aikata-zumi” style or Turtleback curvilinear shapes, which is typical to Okinawa.
Zakimi gusuku was designated as a National Historic Site in 1972, and was named a World Heritage Site, along with other Okinawa’s castles, in 2000.
The Shuri textile is produced using traditional dyeing and weaving techniques developed over five hundred years in the Ryukyu Dynasty capital of Shuri and its surrounding areas. It had made a unique development while incorporating influences of China and Southeastern Asian cultures. With its historical and cultural values highly esteemed, it is the representative fabric of Okinawa today.
During the period of Ryukyu Kingdom, these fabrics were mainly worn by the nobility and warrior classes and the main weavers were wives and daughters of warriors, to whom the weaving fabrics were a part of the jobs that they were proud of.
For Ryukyu textiles, Ryukyu indigo and other plant dyes are used and weaving is done by handlooms called “Jihata” and “Takahata” (tall handloom) using a throwing shuttle. There are seven Shuri textile techniques handed down to the present; Shuri Hanaori, Roton Ori, Hanakura Ori, Muru-totchiri, Tejima, Nihgashii Basho-fu and Hanaori Tekin. For dyeing techniques handed down in one locality, the Shuri fabrics have some unique features in their variety and sophisticated quality.
Bingata is an Okinawan traditional paste resist dyeing technique. It was created in the 16th century as a dying process for the clothing of the royalty and the nobles of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Because of this, most of the dye-shops at the time were located around Shuri Castle and protected by the government. Although the word “bin-gata” literally means “red patterns” in Japanese, Bingata is generally multi-colored cloth dyed with various patterned stencil papers.
There are actually two methods of doing Bingata dyeing; “stencil dying” and “cylinder drawing.” In stencil dyeing, the boundaries of the patterns are set with the application of rice-paste resist through a stencil. In cylinder drawing, patterns are hand-drawn through what looks to be a pastry tube.
The bright colors produced by these careful hand processes fascinated the royalty and the nobility of the time. Especially the yellow color created by fukugi (Garcinia subelliptica) was allowed to be used only for the loyal family.
Today, Bingata resist dyed cloth is used not only for clothing but also for many other items such as bags and tapestries, all of which feature an exotic atmosphere of a southern land. Together with Yuzen dyeing, it is one of Japan’s representing dyeing techniques now.
Ryukyu pottery is a traditional handicraft handed down in the Tsuboya district in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture. Pottery techniques were introduced to Ryukyu through the trade with Southeast Asian countries during the 15th century.
Later in the early 17th century, potters from Korea and China were invited to teach their techniques to the local potters, who gradually combined them with the techniques used in the Satsuma domain, the ruler of Ryukyu at that time, and developed their original pottery ware. In the late 17th century, King Shotei of the Ryukyu Dynasty concentrated all the workshops build around his country in the Tsuboya district. Since then the Tsuboya district has been the center of Ryukyu pottery up to the present time.
Using locally produced clay and glazers, it is characterized by generous-hearted and bright impression that is typical to the south land. Pottery produced at these kilns is classified largely into two groups; Ara-yachi and Jo-yachi. Ara-yachi potteries are not glazed and large in size, while Jo-yachi includes those finely-glazed and having painted designs.
Ms. Miyahara was born in Shuri in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture in 1922. Hiving great interest and knowledge in the Shuri textile since very young, she entered the Okinawa Kenritsu Joshi Kogei Gakko (Okinawa Prefectural Women’s School of Arts and Crafts), where she learned dyeing. She met Muneyoshi Yanagi in the year of her graduation and went to Tokyo, where she studied weaving and dyeing with plant stuff under his guidance. After two years, she returned to Naha and taught at her former school. However, as the World War II turned Okinawa into burnt ground, the Shuri textile was virtually in danger of extinction.
The Shuri textile is the products of traditional dyeing and weaving techniques developed and handed down over five hundred years in the Shuri area in Naha. During the period of Ryukyu Kingdom, these fabrics were mainly worn by the nobility and warrior classes and the main weavers were wives and daughters of warriors.
Ms. Miyahara devoted herself to reviving the Shuri fabric traditions and organizing the craftspeople of the fabric. In 1972, when Okinawa was returned to Japan, she organized the Naha Traditional Textiles Association and contributed to the revitalization and succession of the Shuri textile. She was designated as a holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property (known as a Living National Treasure) in 1998. Love for her homeland and the hope for the world peace are woven into the fabric woven by Ms. Miyahara.
One of Ryukyu's famous toys, the 'hariko', known as the bringer of good luck, is sold at the toy bazaar held on the day of the Yukkanuhi (the fourth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar).
The skills for crafting the hariko were brought here from Japan after the 17th century. The original target for the hariko were children from upper-class families. By the Meiji period, though, the hariko had become a popular and affordable toy for the average child.
Okinawan hariko were influenced by the Ryukyu Kingdom, continental China, and by their own inland cultures. These multiple influences fused in the distinctive shapes and rich colors of the hariko.
Other Ryukyu toys, such as pinwheels made from the leaf of Adan, puppets made from the nut of the Sago palm, and butterfly-shaped kites also show the same subtle charm combined with various influences.
Over the times, plastic and tin toys replaced the popularity of the Ryukyu toys, though each toy still shows expression and tender warmness and is appreciated by many people