What is Bingata? Beautiful Okinawa Bingata Fabric

Beautiful traditional craft Okinawa Bingata fabric

Brilliant Beauty of Okinawa! Bingata Fabric

“Ryukyu Bingata” is a traditional dyed fabric in Okinawa.
Brilliant and beautiful Bingata was once kimono for loyal families or samurai. Also, it was treasured as trading goods.
How Okinawa Bingata was born? Here, we introduce its history and producing process.

“What is “Okinawa Bingata”?

Okinawa Bingata, or Ryukyu Bingata is a traditional dyed craft in Okinawa. It is one of the representative dyed goods equaling to Kyo Yuzen, Kaga Yuzen, or Edo komon.
In Japanese kanji, “Bingata” is “紅型.” “紅” means colors (usually, this kanji means red, though) “型” means patterns. Representative patterns of Okinawa Bingata fabric are plants or animals. Among Okinawa Bingata, deep blue dyed goods are called “Eshigata.”

How is “Okinawa Bingata” made?

Many processes are needed to make an Okinawa Bingata.
Ryukyu Bingata is made by several divisions of labor. Skilled craftsmen do each process. Beautiful colors and patterns are produced by careful handwork of craftsmen.

All processes of Okinawa Bingata

  • 1.Pattern carving: Start carving with fine patterns by "Tsuki bori (carving like piercing)" skill with small knife called "Shi-gu."
  • 2.Pattern print: Put pattern on cloth and put resistant starch evenly on pattern paper. Carved place of pattern will be printed on cloth.
  • 3.(Put starch): Without pattern, craftsmen squeeze resistant starch on design. it can express livelier pattern than design with pattern.
  • 4.Undercoat: Put “Gojiru,” a liquid mixed soy milk and starch on cloth. This undercoat makes pigment fixed and prevent blur.
  • 5.Coloring: Since pigments are hard to be fixed, craftsmen color pattern with brush twice.
  • 6.Shading: Make shading on colored patterns from its center. Shading makes pattern three-dimension.
  • 7.Put resistant starch: Put resistant starch on patterns so that the patterns keep its colors while dyeing.
  • 8.Dye: After putting water-thinned starch, dye cloth with big brush. For Eshigata, put cloth in pots of indigo.
  • 9. Steam: To fix dye, steam dyed cloth in high-temperature steamer for 40minutes ~ 1 hour, and dry it after steam. Instead of steam, mordant may be used.
  • 10.Rinse: Rinse chemicals or starch with a lot of hot water or water.

History of “Okinawa Bingata”

History of Okinawa Bingata fabrics is history of Okinawa.
Okinawa Bingata started in 14th ~ 15th century. Okinawan people took skills of Indian print, Javanese batik, Chinese fabric, and Japanese Kyo Yuzen to make Okinawa Bingata.

Ryukyu Bingata was produced prosperously with courteous protect from Ryukyu Kingdom. Okinawa Bingata fabric was used for clothes of loyal family or samurai family. Also, Bingata fabric was offering to China or Central government of Japan (Edo).

Revival after 3 dangers

In 17th century, most of pattern paper was burnt away by invasion of Satsuma (now Kagoshima prefecture.) However, it is not declined. People established style of Okinawa Bingata today by 18th century.

But in late 19th century, Okinawa Bingata fabric became decline by the end of Ryukyu Kingdom. Furthermore, WWⅡdestroyed most of pattern paper and tools for Bingata.

Craftsmen survived lack of goods after the war and made strenuous research of Bingata fabric. Finally, Ryukyu Bingata fabric revived as traditional Okinawa dyed cloth. In 1984, it is designated as traditional craft of Japan.

We can see prosperity and interchange with various countries of Ryukyu Kingdom from Okinawa bingata fabric.
Invasion of Satsuma, end of Ryukyu kingdom, and WWⅡ. Ryukyu Bingata faced to danger of disappearance several times in its history. Nevertheless, people who love Okinawa Bingata have handed down its skill today.

Okinawa Bingata and Keisuke Serizawa

Our staff who love art see Bingata and says “well, this resembles artworks of Keisuke Serizawa.” Hmm, that is interesting, and she is right. In fact, Okinawa Bingata fabric influenced Keisuke Serizawa!

Keisuke Serizawa is dyeing artist who led Mingei (National Art) Movement. He met Ryukyu Bingata when his 30s.
He talked about that moment as “that pattern, that color, that material. I felt like it is a dream that no other dyed goods are more beautiful or happier than this.”

To know Okinawa Bingata is tracing root of Japanese dyed fabrics.

Beautiful Okinawa Bingata fabric in our life

Ryukyu bingata was once loved as clothes for loyal family or samurai family.
Now, kimono or obi are still produced. Also, we can find more familiar items of Okinawa Bingata now. Bag, drawstring pouch, stole, umbrella, handkerchief, place mat, etc.
How about using Okinawa Bingata fabric in your life as an accent? Brilliant Bingata fabric make you happy.

Okinawa Bingata fabric has been popular souvenir of Okinawa. Also, workshop of dyeing is good. When you visit Okinawa, how about taking a factory tour?