Okinawa Tourism Information:“Bingata,”WhoseHueOfBrilliantColorsandDetailPatternsCaptureYourHeartandMind.

“Bingata,” Whose Hue Of Brilliant Colors and Detail Patterns Capture Your Heart and Mind.

post : 2014.09.03 12:00

Bingata known as vibrant colors and beautiful patterns is one of representative Okinawan industrial arts.

There are several theories on where the name of bingata came from, but a commonly accepted theory is that “bin” means a generic term for colors and “gata” means a pattern.  So bingata indicates a dyeing method of dyeing patterns with colors.

For the origin of bingata, we have to trace it back to the Ryukyu Kingdom in 14 to 15C when the kingdom actively traded with mainland Japan, China, and Southeast Asian countries.  As they incorporated various Orient cultures in thekingdom,  bingata is said to have been originated and developed. 

In the Ryukyu Kingdom, bingata was worn by royal families, warrior class, and aristocrats as a costume as well as used for costumes for the Ryukyuan Dance. 

Because of its beauty, it became valuable trade goods to China as Oriental hanagire (flower-patterned material used to bind the ends of the spine in books).

The main characteristics of bingata are gorgeous colors and a bold color scheme.

The color that shows up against a bright, strong sunshine of the southern land, a blue sky and sea, and abundant nature in the dense forest is dyed with pigments.

After the first layer of pigment is done, the cloth is heated until dry and another set of pigment is applied.  Accordingly, the finished product has naturally dynamic, great colors that are evenly developed, and looks really sharp under a strong sunshine. 

That’s how I was learned from Ms. Sachiko Yafuso, who owns “Yafuso Bingta Workshop” in Naha City. 

Patterns are also characteristic.  There are many classical patterns, which are said to have been strongly influenced by the Southeast Asian countries, China, and Japan.

For example, motifs of dragon and phoenix are from China while motifs of objects that cannot be found in the nature of the Ryukyu islands like hagi (bush clover), yukiwa (snowflake-shaped family crest), botan (peony), etc. are from motifs of Yuzen dyeing to create Ryukyu own bingata motifs that shows an easygoing nature of Okinawan people. 

Later on, the motifs of objects unique to the southern land like hibiscus, deigo (Indian coral bean) flowers, adan (screw pine) fruit, etc. were added to enjoy more variety of motifs regardless of season.  

“Using motifs of different seasons is a good part of bingata because we can use it throughout the year.  That shows an easygoing nature of Okinawan people,” said Ms. Yafuso.

For bingata dyeing, there are many steps and delicate handwork including designing, making a stencil, applying pigments to the cloth.

In Yafuso San’s workshop, many staff members were working in a calm manner but wholeheartedly in each process.

During the whole process, the most important part is the kumadori (shading or rubbed into the cloth with a stiff brush).

For the kumadori, on top of coloring the pattern with pigments, another darker pigments are applied, which gives a 3D appearance to the pattern.

Adding one more color to flower petals, or adding leaf veins makes the pattern three-dimensional.  The kumadori work with care and patience with two brushes creates beautiful bingata patterns.

Drying and painting, another drying and painting again….
Create each color very carefully.

With a traditional technique, the outcome of artisan’s steady efforts brings life to bingata that fascinates so many people.

What mesmerized me at Yafuso San’s workshop is a roll of dyed cloth called “eegata” (stencil dyeing produced with various shades of indigo).

If I make yukata (summer kimono) using this cloth with fuurinbussouge (coral hibiscus) painted in cool shades of color, how beautiful it will be?

It was a moment that I was bewitched by the charm bingata.

Nowadays the distinguished traditional handicraft can be seen in everyday goods like T-shirts, parasols, wallets and bags.

In addition to classical patterns, you can find a variety of bingata patterns from original, creative ones, historical ones to pretty ones.

Recently many bingata patterns are printed on products by machine due to mass production, but color shades and patterns created by manual work makes a big difference.  It is strikingly beautiful.

In every region of Okinawa, you can find some workshop or shops of bingata, some of which let you watch how craft workers making bingata products.  

When you get a chance, please stop by there and watch it.  You might be quickly attracted into the world of bingata.  Some workshops provide visitors a dyeing experience program.  It is fun trying bingata dyeing, not just watching.

The more you know about bingata, the deeper and more fascinating you find bingata.
During your trip to Okinawa, please find a bingata product of your choice!


Ryukyu Bingata Cooperative Business Association
Address: 1-11-12, Maejima, Naha City
TEL: 098‐862‐5594
(Please note: They might not have an English-speaking staff member.  So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)
Official Website:
 (Please note: This website is written in Japanese.  So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)

“The 21st Okinawa Industrial Arts Fureai Square,” for which Ryukyu Bingata Cooperative Business Association also exhibits their products, will be held in Ginza, Tokyo.

For 3 days from Friday, September 5 to Sunday, September 7, there will be full array of Okinawan industrial artifacts in Ginza.
You can find full of attractive events such as experience programs (making Ryukyu bingata coaster or tote bag).  
Please don’t miss this chance to get familiar with the traditional skill.

For more details, please click here.
 (Please note: This website is written in Japanese.  So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer   Akiko Ono