Okinawa Tourism Information:RyukyuPapierMacheThatMakesYouHappy

Ryukyu Papier Mache That
Makes You Happy

post : 2015.11.21 10:00

A couple of minutes' walk from Makishi Public Market in Naha city, you will see a bright yellow shop. This is a shop run by a Ryukyu Papier Mache artist, Morito Toyonaga. A name of the shop is "Toy Road Works."

Ryukyu papier mache are toys that have been made in Okinawa from olden days. They were sold at Toy Market that was mainly held on May 4th of lunar calendar.

It is said that parents used to buy it for their children as a lucky charm wishing for their healthy growth and career success.

However, after Meiji period which is from 1868 to 1912, emerging celluloid toys and tinplate toys pushed out the popularity of Ryukyu papier mache. At the present time, there are only a few artists that make Ryukyu papier mache, and Mr.Toyonaga is one of them.

Mr. Toyonaga went to the United States while he was a university student and he was impressed with an African sculpture that he saw at an art museum. He was deeply inspired by the work that was created at a place where there weren't enough tools or materials.

After that, he had this thought:he wanted to create something of his own making. After he returned to Okinawa, one of his friends asked him to become a Ryukyu papier mache artist, and he started to make ones that are rooted in Okinawa.

There were many days that he struggled. Because there were not enough successors, it was difficult to find people who teach him how to make one. And, most of actual papier mache was lost after the war. He went to the mainland Japan to see the documents about papier mache, to meet people, and to visit Folk Crafts Museum.

Also in Okinawa, he met an old man who actually has been to the Toy Market and after that, he tought himself.

So papier mache that Mr. Tominaga make have many varieties, from traditional papier mache to unique modern ones. Once you step into the  store, there are many papier mache that you would be attracted to.

This is traditional animal symbols. Every piece is made by hand so each papier mache has a different face.

There are characters of Japanese folk tales, peach boy and demons. Demons are not really scary.

Other old stories are the Crane of Gratitude and Tom Thumb.

Also, Okinawan traditional Shi-Sa, the guardian lions, are sold at the store.

Quaint ones are Centaur and wrestlers.

Unique and funny faces will definitely catch everyone's eyes.

There are not only Japanese ones; there are also Russian series and Maria holding Jesus which might be a good display during Christmas season.

This is Mr. Tominaga's favorite, Boyal. There is a little secret hidden in the store so please come and find out what it is.

Besides papier mache, there are many items with illustrations drawn by Mr. Tominaga. He creates variety of things from T-shirts to post cards.

Riddle Cookie was started by collaborating with Yaedake Bakery located in the northern part of Okinawa island. Let's see what riddle is hidden inside!

This Karuta Card Game is one of the popular ones that is also sold at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. Unique thing about this is not only illustrations, but also what is written on it. Even adults can enjoy this Karuta Card Game so it may be a good souvenir for adults too.

AIUEO Karuta is also available on LINE as stickers.

More stickers are created, so the second one would be a series called Funny Okinawan Karuta, then the third one would be World Fairy Tale Karuta.

This karuta is available asa key holder with salt. It was created by collaborating with leather brand maker, RAKUSYOU.

Salt has been used as a lucky charm to keep the evil away. Please come and find your favorite lucky charm.

He doesn't put pressure on himself as an artist who makes traditional toys, instead, he says he is making whatever he likes.
It is surprising how he creates unique papier mache using fabric and felt.
Mr. Toyonaga's papier mache, both traditional and modern ones, remind us of when we were small. I wonder what kind of papier mache will be created next!

Toy Road Works
Address: 3-6-2 1F Makishi, Naha-city, Okinawa
Closed on Sundays

Okinawa CLIP Photowriter : Akiko Ono