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For Yachimun Pottery near Sefa Utaki, Stop by Shibiranka (Nanjo City)
post : 2018.09.23 07:00
Sefa Utaki, a World Heritage Site located in the southern region of Okinawa Island, sees numerous visitors each day. At the entrance to this popular sightseeing spot is the Nanjo City Ganju Eki, and just next to it is the Shibiranka, selling various ceramics and lifestyle goods.
The box-shaped shop is located within the grounds of the Kudakajima Soba shop, and with its chic black exterior and the many dishes of Yachimun pottery décor, you can’t miss it.
Yachimun, or Okinawan pottery, are displayed within the shop along with Bingata textile designs and lacquer goods. All of the items are creations of approximately 15 Okinawan artists, many of whom are based in the local areas of Nanjo City.
After her children had grown up and she finally had some time for herself, the owner, Ms. Kazue Kawahira, opened her shop two years ago. The name Shibiranka has a beautiful ring to it and sounds like it could be a name of a tropical fauna or flora, but it actually means the ridgepole of a roof of a wooden structure, and this traditional Okinawan architectural feature was believed to protect the building from calamities and to ward off bad luck. The shop was built with the help of her husband, who works in the architectural business, and the name reflects her Uchinanchu (Okinawan) spirit and deep affections to the shop and her identity. The Bingata design displayed on the wall is by the Nanjo City artist, Tomoko Nawa.
The powerful brilliance of the red dragon on the Dachibin (a traditional Okinawan pottery to contain Awamori) is reminiscent of the dragons seen at Shurijo Castle. The work is by Hi-no-Ryu, working out of a studio in Tamagusuku, Nanjo City.
The Chuka (tea pot) with their soft curves and lines are created by Ayako Kinjo, an artist from the adjacent municipality of Haebaru Town. “I simply love the fine, delicate and dignified designs of these tea pots. They also have a nice modern touch, and so very classy,” says Ms. Kawahira. She explains that she’s always sold Ms. Kinjo’s works since the opening of her shop, and she is one of her favorite artists.
The fun and colorful mugs that look like they popped out of a children’s picture book, are also creations of Hi-no-Ryu, the artist that produces the Dachibin mentioned above. His works are only available at a couple of places in Okinawa, and Shibiranka offers a great lineup of his creations.
Even if you’re not a fan of Okinawan Yachimun, the simple white cups and bowls are popular for their classic design and usefulness. These pieces are created using the unique and traditional Yachimun technique called Senbori, where the designs are engraved while the clay is only half dried. The Senbori designs really stand out nicely on the white base color. These are created by the artist at Nantan pottery studio located in Itoman City.
The small, adorable pieces displayed neatly are Hashioki chopstick rests and Suiteki water containers (used add droplets of water to dilute the ink for Japanese calligraphy). Can you recognize what the crescent-shaped Suiteki pieces at the center of the photo are? Yes, they’re tiny Dachibin containers I mentioned before! The Hashioki pieces to the left, shaped like Rakugan or traditional confectionaries, are also created by the Nantan pottery studio artist, known for her beautiful Senbori lines. Ms. Kawahira said that a customer bought a piece saying they were perfect as Obidome, or an ornamental accent piece for the obi sash of a kimono.
Ms. Kawahira explains, “I’m not an expert in pottery or anything like that. I just look for pieces that I personally want to use in my daily life, pieces to cherish, and pieces that make me happy. I choose and collect works from various artists, no matter if they’re artists just starting out, or well-known artists with a lot of experience.” The items she sells in her shop are selected from her taste and point of view, as a woman born and raised in Okinawa, and as a mother and homemaker who has come across an abundance of ceramic works. Her selections are unlike other shops with professional buyers or with great focus on style and trends. They are more down-to-earth and closely knitted to the genuine feel of Okinawa.
At Shibiranka, you’ll also see various works of lacquer and items with Bingata designs. The accessories created by Studio Nuri-Ton of the neighboring Yaese Town, are all made from Okinawan wood and coated with lacquer. The Bingata bags and pouches are great for everyday use, and these items are selected from four studios across Okinawa.
“Lately, there are more and more local customers. That makes me happy, too. They come looking for something to send to friends in mainland Japan as gifts, or they simply come to find a favorite for themselves ― I enjoy looking for just the right piece together with my customers,” says Ms. Kawahira. The heartwarming chitchat with Ms. Kawahira and the comfort that comes with the pieces she carefully selected for her shop and customers, really reflect the warmth and simplicity of life in the southern areas of Okinawa.
Shibiranka (Pottery & Lifestyle Goods)
Address: 446 Kudeken, Chinen, Nanjo City
Business Hours: 10:00-17:30
Closed: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and 4th Monday of the month
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Naoko Tsuruta