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Produced by Okinawa’s Popular Creative Duo, ATRON SHOP (Okinawa City) Offers Various Goods with Unique Designs
post : 2019.07.16 08:00
In March of 2016, the owners of ATORON SHOP opened their business with their commitment to “try creating items that people will say, ‘I came to Okinawa just to buy this’ and not just, ‘I’ll pick it up since I’m in Okinawa.’” And their main concept? Living with a sense of humor.
This art duo formed in 1997 and together, they run the ATORON Creative Entertainment. The power duo has led the art scene in Koza or Okinawa City, creating designs for advertisements and promotions like posters, as well as CD covers and T-shirts. With a positive sense of humor and laughter as their foundation, ATORON mixes graphic designs, illustrations, and creative art in their creations.
The duo is Tsukasa Tomoyose and Keiko Enobi, and they both enjoyed drawing since they were young kids. To name what nurtured their sense of art is likely so countless that if each were stars, they could fill the skies, but one of them, is the city of Koza. Tomoyose-san reflects, “Koza was filled with high quality art; from neon signs, sculpted objects, and business signs to sticker printing.”
In the bygone days, Koza flourished with many businesses catering to officers and personnel of the US Forces who worked at Kadena Air Base. This propelled the area to see some of the earliest developments in street culture in Japan, with unique and creative designs, arts, and music.
Now let me introduce you to some of my recommended creations. In a good way, many of the items don’t have the Okinawa feel despite having local roots. One of the characteristics of their creations is that they collaborate with local creators to produce their goods.
Take, for example, the Yanakagi Maya Gamaguchi (literally meaning ‘metal-clasp pouch of an ugly cat’ in the Okinawan language), an item that’s highly recommended. The inspiration for this creation was an old Okinawan proverb to describe something absolutely impossible; ‘Ten kara aka maya (a red cat falls from the sky)”. The item features a red cat motif on their original fabric that’s carefully formed to create the face of a cat. Each of the pieces have different feline facial features and when you open the clasp at its mouth, they are so incredibly cute.
Next is the “Lun Lun Pen Case”. This scroll-type pen holder is made with the intention for its user “to feel happy (Lun Lun)”. They come in eight variations from the Aka Maya red cats to flowers of Okinawa. Just like with the metal clasp pouches, these were also created in collaboration with Yu-duri, an artist who creates wedding and party dresses as well as various accessories and goods.
These trunk cases shown above are created together with KENG-SHING, a multi-talented artist who’s a film producer, music selector, sculptor, and sound system. KENG-SHING is the artist who displayed the installation that combined visuals and sounds at the Ichihanari Art Project, an art event held in Okinawa.
These trunks are handmade with cushions in the wooden frames. You can use it as a substitute for a bag n your outings, or as a treasure chest to store your important things.
Last but not least in my recommendation is the Utoto (pronounced oo-toh-toh), which is a word used quite often in Okinawa, meansing ‘prayer’. They offer eight designs of this tote bag that you can toss all you need, in a Champuru (great mix) style, and they come in three different sizes of small, medium, and large. You’ll also find various other unique and useful items at ATORON, like their original float pens that were manufactured upon their request by Eskesen, a Danish company.
They now have a wide selection of original items offered at ATORON, but initially, they started with art T-shirts and this was at a time when many Okinawan souvenirs had somewhat stereotypical motifs like Shisa lions and hibiscus flowers. Apparently, the locals weren’t too keen on these, and the duo set out to create original designs “for cool and interesting T-shirts that local Okinawans like us would want to wear.”
Like people separated by the fences of the military facilities, or the commonly seen water tanks atop roofs, and the strangely shaped objects in the US military facilities that are not often found in the rest of Japan. They took these familiar scenes from the local perspective and arranged them in a uniquely Okinawan fashion. They created designs from close-ups of the Indian coral flowers, the prefectural flower, and at times creating something that was completely different from what the original object looks like.
With their own unique perspectives, they’ve redesigned Okinawa at ATORON.
The shop also functions as their creative studio and throughout the space, you can see various little aspects that are very much what you might expect from a unique artist like Tomoyose-san. Like the circuit breaker that was brought from an old building that was getting torn down, and the piping and lights that are very Sci-Fi, as well as switches that make noise when you flip them. All these are tastefully laid out in a very playful way.
The streets of Koza gives us a deeper perspective of Okinawa, so how about stepping into the unique world created at ATORON SHOP to experience a different side of Okinawa?
Address: 1F, 1-18-6 Chuo, Okinawa City
Hours: 12:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday
Closed: Saturdays & Sundays
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda