Okinawa Tourism Information:ShimaShimaPotteryOfferstheScenesoftheSouthernIslandintheFormofCeramics

Shima Shima Pottery Offers the Scenes of the Southern Island in the Form of Ceramics

post : 2019.01.25 06:00

Two large banyan trees with their braches expanding upward to the glorious skies. If there was a list of the best places to live on Okinawa, Yomitan Village would likely be in the top five. At the northern end of this lovely village is an equally delightful studio with a very charming name.

Shima Shima Pottery. It has such a nice, happy ring to it. This little studio produces very unique and distinctive pottery. There are pieces with light pastel colors, and some with a very deep coloring that gives them a presence you can’t ignore. Then there are also ones with colors that look to be weathered but also with great charm. Even with such a wide variety of tastes, you’ll be able to recognize the works from this tiny studio through their use of color and shape that is truly their own.

Running the studio is Mari Yamashiro, originally from Kyoto, and her husband and two children also help run this family studio. The four lines that mark the bottoms of their pieces represent the four of them, all helping each other out, and all happily running the studio, together.

Upon graduating art school, where she majored in textiles, Mari learned pottery coloring at a job training school for a year, experiencing the world of coloring Japanese tea ceremony pieces. She found it to be a satisfying job, but wanted to try a different world, hoping to find an area where she can freely create more everyday items. With numerous chance meetings, she came to Okinawa to learn and study for a while. Although she didn’t plan on staying for too long, she found life on Okinawa to be extremely comfortable, and ended up staying for good.

Mari says, “Okinawa is so laid back, and I was looking for a place where I can work at my own pace, at a leisurely pace. It was perfect for me.” She apprenticed at Shinsei Tobou, known for their blue arabesque designs, and then she went on to open her own studio. Since then, she always focused on “finding ways to design things from what I feel in my daily life on Okinawa.” She continues to create items that meet her focus and also keeping in mind the functionality of the pieces for the users.


For example, the coffee cups that are big enough to be used as soup cups. The shape was inspired by papayas, an ingredient that is a must-have in Okinawan cuisine. Because they’re designed in a shape that you can hold with two hands, they’re easy to use for children and the elderly, too. Mari calls this series, the Totan, taken from the Totan roofs, or tin roofs of huts that have that charming weathered look.

“I was on a farm road one day, and I happen to see a little hut that an old man had built. I thought it looked great…It was probably not intentional, but the weathered look was very stylish and so very Okinawa. I found it interesting and decided I wanted to design pottery pieces like that.”

Mari places importance on creating pottery pieces that will add to the fun and enjoyment at the table. She designs her pieces and chooses the colors to encourage conversation, like, “Doesn’t this shape remind you of a puffer fish?” or “I wonder what these round patterns are?”

In this way, she has a myriad of pottery series that she names, like “Densho Giku (chrysanthemums grown under numerous lightbulbs)”, “Kachashii (Okinawan dance)”, “Ishigantu (feng shui plaques erected at dead ends to ward off bad spirits), “Gaijin Jutaku (military housing)”, “Katabui (partial rain)”, and other names inspired by life on Okinawa.

Her curiosity was piqued when she first encountered boxes that were labeled with the words, “Taiyo no Hana”, which means “flowers of the sun”. Taiyo no Hana is a brand name of the chrysanthemums grown in Okinawa. Not knowing this, she wondered, “What kind of flowers are in those boxes?” She was so impressed when she learned that the boxes contained Densho Giku chrysanthemums and so she decided to add them to her repertoire right away.

As you may know, Kachashii is an up-tempo Okinawan dance, where both hands are raised and moved gracefully, accompanied by the Okinawan three-stringed Sanshin. Ishigantu are influences of China and are often seen around the Okinawan neighborhoods, placed on the walls or on the side of the street at T-junctions, and believed to divert the bad spirits. “What’s scary, funny, and interesting at the same time is that in Okinawa, as the Ishigantu goes, the bad spirits are only able to proceed straight. That’s kind of charming, that belief.” She chose Gaijin Jutaku for the colors on some of these buildings which have been painted over with layers and layers of paint throughout the years, and that look attracted her.


Even some of her very unique series are sometimes discontinued, and also, the colors are a little different with each batch in the kiln. Mari takes photos of things that catch her eye wherever she goes. Photos of the scenery, buildings, plants and their colors. She goes back to these photos and chooses those that inspire her to bring into her work.

This is why you will rarely find identical pieces at Shima Shima Pottery. Just like chance meetings, if you see something that sticks to you, I recommend you purchase it without hesitation because you’ll likely end up cherishing it for a long, long time.


Shima Shima Pottery
Address: 1048-1 Senaha, Yomitan Village, Okinawa
Business Hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed: Irregularly

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda