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.
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
Miyazaki lacquer ware (Miyazaki Shikki) is a traditional handicraft, which is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Miyazaki Prefecture. The history of this craft originates in Ryukyu lacquer ware, which started in present-day Okinawa in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and the techniques of which we can see in the Shuri Castle Gate in Naha City.
In Miyazaki Prefecture, the lacquering techniques were introduced by some lacquerers, who came to live in this prefecture from Okinawa. Lacquering industry started in this area as the means of promoting local employment and developed as far as to produce the independent lacquer ware Miyazaki Shikki.
The high temperatures and ample humidity of Miyazaki's climate are well suited for drying the pieces, which are applied several times of lacquering; undercoating, middle coating and top coating. These processes are essential for making products strong and durable.
The distinctive way of applying the decorative pattern called Tsuikin characterizes Miyazaki lacquer ware. In Tsuikin techniques, pigment is crushed and mixed with transparent top-coat lacquer and hit by a hammer until it becomes gummy. This is then cut out according to the patterns and attached to a base board.
The outstanding beauty of the vermillion patterns is treasured by a lot of people all over the country. Presently products such as trays, teacup holders, candy dishes and letter boxes are being made.
Katsuren gusuku was a castle located in Katsuren, Uruma City, Okinawa Pref. The castle stood at an altitude of 68-98 m above sea level, 140 m from east to west and 85 m from north to south. It was built around 12th-13th centuries as a residence of Katsuren Anji. The last castellan that gave it a refurbishment was Amawari, who was a growing power in this area. To check his advance on the capital, Shuri King placed his retainer Gosamaru in Nakagusuku Castle. In 1458, Amawari defeated Gosamaru and advanced his forces to the capital, but was severely defeated and destroyed by the King’s forces.
Standing on a hill facing the Pacific Ocean, the gusuku looks like a castle in the sky. At present the castle ruin site is arranged into Katsuren Castle Ruin Park, where a lot of visitors come to enjoy beautiful landscape.
Shikinaen located in Maaji, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. was a detached palace of the Ryukyu kings. The construction started in the era of King Sho Boku (1752-1795) and completed in 1799. The palace with a total area of 4 ha is the largest second residence of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was used as a rest house for royal family as well as a guest house to receive foreign emissaries.
The palace is famous for its beautiful circuit-style garden. Walking along the circular path, you can enjoy viewing the palace, miniature hill, flower gardens laid out around the pond. The small and large bridges cross over the pond and a Chinese-style hexagonal house is on a small islet. The architectural style is the blending of Chinese and Japanese elements. As most of the buildings were destroyed in Battle of Okinawa, what can be seen today are the restored structures. Shikinaen Garden is an exquisite garden that reminds us of the prosperous days of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
Miyako-jofu is a very elaborate, smooth and strong hemp fabric featuring a splashed design, and is one of Okinawa's traditional crafts.
400 years ago, the king of Ryukyu honored a man from the island of Miyako-jima who had averted a disaster at sea. The king rewarded him with the rank of monk at his court. The man's wife was so pleased that she wove a heartfelt cloth to present to the king as a token of her thanks.
This story is said to be the beginning of the production of Miyako-jofu fabric. Miyako-jofu is a fabric that uses a form of flax known as 'choma' in its weave. It is produced in Hirara, Shimoji-cho and elsewhere, and was designated a traditional craft by the government in 1975.
Ryukyu Kasuri is an ikat cloth woven in the town of Haebaru in Okinawa. It is also the collective term for any ikat made in Okinawa.
Ryukyu Kasuri is said to date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. It developed from South-East Asian ikat but its designs feature unique motifs based on Okinawan nature and fauna.
Silk is the main thread used for Ryukyu Kasuri, and is dyed with both natural and chemical dyes. It is mainly produced as a roll of cloth. Hanging wall cloths for the summer season are also made.
To make ikat, warp and weft threads are dyed and woven by hand in ordered patterns. Before weaving, the threads are mounted on a frame, tied in selected areas, then dyed. The threads are then dried and loosened, and carefully woven on a wooden loom to form the pattern.
The simple prints and the geometrical patterns of Ryukyu Kasuri create an exotic atmosphere.
Yaeyama joufu (high-quality ramie) fabric is woven on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. The small dark-brown 'kasuri' (scratched) patterns against the white background on this material give a very refreshing look.
In the early 17th century, the Satsuma clan invaded Ryukyu (Okinawa) and imposed taxes on the Okinawans. Many people were made to weave fabric to be sent as tribute to their rulers, hence the development of the Yaeyama joufu technique.
After regulations were abolished at the end of the Meiji period, the craftworkers organized guilds and Yaeyama joufu became a popular cottage industry.
The materials for the ramie and the many kinds of dye are all natural, and are turned into beautiful fabric by the hands and wisdom of the people. The cloth is dried in the May sun and the dyes are fixed by seawater.
Many people love this high-quality ramie because it suits the subtropical climate: it is refreshing and light enough to to let air pass through.