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Your Very Own Rainbow Creation! “Sango Zome (coral dyeing)" at Shuri Ryusen
post : 2021.04.29 18:00
The first of many gates that led many of its visitors to Shurijo Castle in the bygone days, was the Chuzan-mon Gate, a gate that no longer exists.
Today, standing alongside the stone monument that reminds us of the gate that once proudly stood here, is Shuri Ryusen, a shop specializing in Bingata and Sango or coral dyes.
The shop is particular about preserving and using traditional colors, and they offer various lifestyle goods, kimono, and obi sashes dyed with Bingata patterns or using corals.
They also offer a hands-on workshop so that the customers can experience creating their own dyed items.
Other places may offer Bingata dyeing experiences, but the Sango Zome is Ryusen’s original.
The method uses the cross-sectional surfaces of fossilized coral.
For this article, I’m going to try my hand at coral dyeing, something that you can only experience at Ryusen!
The coral dyeing experience is offered at their spacious second-floor workshop.
You can choose from a T-shirt, shawl, tote bag, or other items to dye.
I chose a child-sized T-shirt!
The shop staff gave me all the directions I needed to get started.
It’s a simple process that people of all ages can enjoy it.
Shown above are their selection of fossilized corals.
These corals were collected from beaches where they were washed up, then they were cut and shaped to use for dyeing.
There are other choices besides coral, too, like silly but charming shapes of Shisa, and fish with puckered lips.
The four colors used for dyeing are red, yellow, blue, and purple.
The color is dabbed on with what’s called a Tanpo, a rounded fabric with cotton inside.
The Tanpo is then rubbed onto the cloth that’s firmly placed on the coral, and the colorful patterns appear on the surface.
Here, I first dyed the center with yellow, and then for the outer areas, I used blue.
The areas where the colors overlap blended into a nice green.
By overlapping colors, you can create 16 colors from the four original colors!
The gradation of myriad colors creates a lovely finish, and bringing out these colors is all part of the fun.
The Shisa pattern turns out like this!
When you combine corals of different sizes, you can also create fish-like patterns, like the sunfish.
They also have brushes so you can draw in the eyes, too!
After the staff offers the general flow of the process, then you can get to work on your masterpiece.
At first, you might be undecided about what colors to use, but once you get started and your inner artist gets on a roll, you’ll be so absorbed in the process and in seeing the creation of various colors!
Find just the right sport where you want the patterns to go, firmly place the cloth on the coral, and rub away.
I adjusted the coral a little bit at a time and overlapped the patterns and used different colors.
A cute T-shirt featuring a charming fish.
I also decided to add patterns on the back.
Sango Zome coral dyeing lets your creativity bloom as you choose the placement of colors, coral patterns and sizes, and where you want the patterns to go.
They offer a special summer rate* for half price to dye a small book bag.
They have many kids enjoying the experience every year!
*Note: the promotion is not offered at present. Please check their website for details.
After your coral dyeing experience, browse around the shop on the first floor where you can purchase some wonderful gifts.
They offer a great variety of goods with patterns unique to Okinawa, like Bingata coasters and handheld fans, coral dyed hair ties and Furoshiki cloths, colorful scarves made with organic cotton, and many more.
Also, be sure to check out the impressive palanquin displayed by the entrance.
It’s a replica of a palanquin that was used to carry the King during the period of the Ryukyu Dynasty.
The third floor of the building is their dyeing studio, and visitors can observe the craftsmen at work.
Since ancient times, the Okinawan people believed that corals had special powers to cast away bad spirits, to protect the people, and delivered good fortune.
Visit Ryusen where they offer a dyeing experience that you can’t have anywhere else, creating your personalized rainbow-colored item with a real Okinawan-feel, using coral that has had special meanings to the people of the island.
Address: 1-54 Shuri Yamakawa-cho, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Open Year Round
*Please check their updated business hours and other details beofre your visit.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Akiko Ono