Okinawa Tourism Information:BingataDyerNorikoTanaka/the1stvolume

Bingata Dyer Noriko Tanaka / the 1st volume

post : 2016.10.03 19:00

Bingata is one of the traditional craft which represents Okinawa, and it is a dyeing technique which has roots in Ryukyu Kingdom in the 14 – 15th century.

I visited Ms. Noriko Tanaka this time. Noriko is a dyer who works on original bingata. All of her works are in the motif of plants and animals that are familiar to us. I asked her how she gets the idea for her works.

I personally like your bingata works, and I always get excited every time I enter “tituti,” a craft shop where your works are available. Anyway, can you tell me what made you become a bingata dyer?

“I majored in art when I was in high school, and I was interested in craft. Especially I liked dyeing, and I accidentally found a book about the crafts of Okinawa one day. I was shocked like ‘what is this!’ when I saw bingata for the first time.”

Its coloration and pattern are sharp and vivid. It has a strong impact when we see it for the first time.

“I’m from Hyogo Prefecture, and it is close to Kyoto Prefecture. I thought about learning Yuzen dyeing in Kyoto Prefecture until I found out about bingata.”

Yuzen dyeing has a contrasting beauty unlike bingata.

“Exactly. The fascinating part about Yuzen dyeing is its soft color, but I felt powerful vitality for bingata. So it made me think to go to Okinawa!”

So it made you decide which path to take!

“Yes. I enrolled at Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts and took bingata course there. Also, I think Okinawa is the best place for me to live because I love Okinawan food and climate lol” 

I could not take my eyes of your works when I saw them for the first time. They are cute but not too lovely, and each animal has good facial expression. These craft also have “modern” taste, and I feel like showing them off when I have them.

“I am happy to hear that because I want to make something that make our lives fun.”

It is because there was a strong image of classic bingata design until then… It seems like you are mainly working on your original design. You do not work on classic bingata design?

“I did work on it when I was in a university and after graduation. But I can’t get the unique style of Okinawa.”

What do you mean by the unique style of Okinawa? 

“It’s hard to explain it. Okinawan people can do it naturally, but I felt different since I am from Mainland Japan.”

How did you feel the difference?

“Classic patterns are the result of our predecessors' effort. It might be good if I was stick to the patterns only as a successor, but I also wanted to work on my own design.”

So you felt conflicted to do both?

“How should I explain this? I felt like taking advantage of using inherited patterns whenever I want to work on them…”

Is that why you started focusing on your own design?

“Yes, even though the classic patterns are the reason why I started it lol”

- I thought she made the decision because she loves bingata and respects predecessors. She thinks of it as important, so she wants to be too involved in it if she is going to focus on the classic patterns. That was the moment when I saw herself as a creator. - 

What are your own design motifs in the most?

“Most classic patterns are influenced by something in Mainland Japan and China, and not all them are in Okinawa. In my case, I want to dye something that I felt good in my ordinary life.” 

A book jacket with the design of shell ginger 

“For example, rainy days during rainy season are annoying. But when I saw my garden one day, planted seeds went up all at once. I realized that rain is necessary for plants. That was how I got the idea of ‘blessed rain.’”

A framed picture of goat and elephant ear plant 

“I like plants of Okinawa such as shell ginger and bougainvillea, and I also like animal like goat.”

“I made these card cases after I saw rays and mantas were lying on top of each other and swimming together at Churaumi Aquarium.”

It was a love at first sight when I found this card case at the shop! I was surprised to hear that because I did not think these were rays and mantas. They also look like grains of light. She gets many ideas from casual moment in everyday life.

Noriko pictures clear moments in her daily life in Okinawa, and she transforms them into her works. I will explain a story about sunshine and shade that she mainly focuses on, and also an episode of how the elephant’s purse was made for “the 2nd volume."

To be continued…

◆ Noriko Tanaka (Bingata-kobo Somemushi) 


○ The list of stores where everybody can purchase her bingata products 


Ryukyu Mingei Center 

Museum Shop Kyuyo / Gift Shop Bingata 

Nishimui Bijutsu 


Okinawa CLIP photo writer Akiko Ono