What is Ryukyu Lacquerware? Traditional Lacquerware in Okinawa

Traditional lacquerware of Okinawa, Ryukyu lacquerware

Gorgeous Contrast! Okinawa Lacquerware Tells Multicultural Interchange

Red, black, yellow and green.
Okinawa lacquerware is characterized by gorgeous coloring and various skills.
Glossy lacquerware tells one-time multicultural interchange of Okinawa now.

Not so famous!? Okinawa lacquerware

“Is lacquerware produced in Okinawa?”
Even for Japanese, many people have never known this fact.
As for crafts in Okinawa, Okinawa pottery “Yachimun” or Ryukyu Glass have been famous.
However, it is not so famous, but there is a beautiful lacquerware called “Ryukyu lacquerware” in Okinawa.

What is Okinawa lacquerware? How is it different from other Japanese lacquerwares?
Here, let us introduce gorgeous lacquerware in Okinawa.

Glossy lacquerware produced under tropical climate

One reason why lacquerware prospered in Okinawa is its blessed climate.
Indispensable 2 components for lacquerware are temperature and humidity.
Lacquer needs humidity to be dry unlike water.
Annual average temperature in Okinawa is 22.4℃ (about 72.3℉), and average humidity is 77%. Appropriate tropical climate for lacquerware have raised Ryukyu lacquerware.

Okinawa lacquerware started from trade with China

Okinawa lacquerware is said to be introduced in or after 14th century from China.
Introduced lacquerware skills developed to unique lacquerware skill in Okinawa. Ryukyu lacquerware was sent to China as offering.

When Ryukyu Kingdom was united in 15th century, government established a place to produce lacquerware systematically (Kaizuri Bugyo-sho.) Production of lacquerware became under control. Lacquerware was used for daily life of loyal family or descendants of samurai. Among the people, lacquer ornaments were used in religious services or ceremonies.

In 1879, Ryukyu Kingdom fell. Simultaneously, Kaizuri Bugyo-sho was abolished. Now, Ryukyu lacquerware is produced for tableware of general people, or as souvenirs.

What are the features of Okinawa lacquerware?

Ryukyu lacquerware is a beautiful lacquerware with vivid contrast of red and black. Okinawan people have developed skills from China independently. Okinawa lacquerware is known for its various decoration skills.

Examples of decoration skills of Okinawa lacquerware are “Chinkin”, “Hakue”, “Raden”, “Makie” and more. Among them, “Tsuikin” is famous for unique skill of Okinawa. In “Tsuikin”, craftsmen mix lacquer with pigments, and make “Tsuikin Mochi.” And, they spread “Tsuikin Mochi” thinly to make three-dimensional decorations.

Patterns of lacquerware are various, too. Dragons influenced by China, Hibiscus, Bitter cucumber, or “Yu-na (Hibiscus tilaceus).” We can see tropical plants and flowers in Okinawa lacquerware. In addition to red and black, green or yellow is used for Ryukyu lacquerware.

Okinawa is rich in woods

Okinawa has rich nature, which means rich in wood for lacquerware.
For wood if lacquerware, woods of “Deigo (coral tree)” which is prefectural flower of Okinawa, “Shitamaki (Japanese snowbell)”, or “Sendan (Chinaberry)” are used.

Deigo is light and strong against warps or transform. So, it is used for tableware of court called “Tun-Da-Bon” or “Jiki-Rou.” Shitamaki is used for soup bowls, saucers, or bowls for snacks.

How to care Okinawa lacquerware?

“Is it difficult to care Okinawa lacquerware?”
You may worry about it. But do not mind!
Okinawa lacquerware is just same as lacquerware in other regions. If you treasure it, you can use it for a long time.

Tips are these 3; do not leave under direct sunlight, wash with soft sponge, wipe water with soft cloth. Also, do not use microwave, dishwasher or dish dryer.

Okinawa lacquerware for your happier life

As for souvenirs of Okinawa, Ryukyu Glass or Shisa have been popular item. we recommend Ryukyu lacquerware, too! If you visit Okinawa, how about joining workshop of Okinawa lacquerware?

Okinawa lacquerware has gorgeous atmosphere. That is unique items in Okinawa that you cannot get in other producing area of lacquerware. Please find your favorite Ryukyu lacquerware!
In fact, there are various Okinawa lacquerware like lacquer jewelries in addition to tableware. Would you like to start a life with Okinawa lacquerware?

Look for lacquerware? See these pages!

If you like lacquerware, we recommend these featured articles as well. Japan Design Store introduces various lacquerware from all over Japan such as Wajima lacquerware, Yamanaka lacquerware, or Kongou-Ishime-Nuri of Shizuoka prefecture. Japanese beautiful lacquerware would be great gifts for your dearest people.