Gusuku Bingata teaches how to create unique gift of bingata
Many people visiting Okinawa have probably heard of “Ryukyu Bingata” before and might imagine it being a colorful traditional Okinawan kimono.
That’s not wrong, but is only a part of the story. Ryukyu Bingata is dyed textile peculiar to Okinawa, and its dyeing method was developed in the 14th~15th century as trade with China and southeast Asia.
The word Bingata, is believed to originate from two words; “Bin” meaning “colors” and “Gata” that means “forms.”
Recently, bingata is used for many different products, such as kimonos, obis, tapestries, handkerchiefs, bags and many others. Gusuku Bingata, a studio located in the Maeda district of Urasoe City close to Shuri Castle Park produces many unique and original bingata products. The studio also invites customers to experience bingata making with their own hands. In the shop, visitors can create their own original colorful bingata products, unlike anything that exists elsewhere in the world. There, one can make a truly unique memento of one’s stay in Okinawa, or a gift for someone’s special.
The Bingata dyeing experience takes about 30min to 1 hour. Reservations are accepted on the studio’s website, or through an email or facebook. Instructions to make a reservation are on the website.
Gusuku Bingata Dyeing Studio was established in 1971 and is now celebrating its 46th year in business. Shingo Yamashiro, the manager of Gusuku Bingata, represents the second-generation of the studio, and is the son-in law of the founder.
The founders of the studio are the parents of Yamashiro’s wife. The mother learned bingata dyeing since she was a teen and, after leaning the craft for about 10 years, established her own independent studio.
At that time, Okinawa already was a famous tourist destination, and many people came to the island for a vacation. A lot of cheap fake bingata was sold in the shops on Kokusai Street and at many sightseeing spots as souvenirs. She thought that is not good, and decided to create more professional bingata, and educate the tourists about real, genuine high-class bingata.
After a couple of decades, and having started a family, she got an idea to start a bingata experience workshop. Her daughters grew up, and joined the family business. When Shingo Yamashiro married one of the daughters, he concentrated on the sales part of the business. He boosted the promotion efforts by incorporating the use of social networks in addition to flyers or media releases.
Gusukuku Bingata has its own facebook page easily found by typing “Gusukubingata-okinawa-”, where many bingata fans follow them. Of course, they are also present on Instagram, Twitter and Line. Besides working on sales and promotions, Yamashiro now works also as the shop manager.
The last World Uchinanchu Festival held last year was very important to Yamashiro, because so many people who trace their roots to Okinawa came to Gusuku Bingata to try the bingata experience. The number of visitors to the studio really surprised him. That convinced him that foreigners living on Okinawa would interested in this traditional Okinawan craft, and they probably would want to try their hand in this special craft, too.
The two daughters of the founder are currently working as designers at the studio. Both Shoko Yamashiro (Yamashiro’s wife) and Ai Yoshihama are graduates of art universities, and well known sister designers on Okinawa. They create bingata designs both in traditional and modern styles that are attractive for people of all ages. Especially their seasonal designs, such as carp streamers, items for the doll festival and Christmas tree designs are very popular. Their everyday clothes for infants are unique and special, and many people buy them as gifts for new born babies. All products are available online, and they ship even to foreign countries.
Yamashiro says he understands that a bingata kimono is too expensive for most people. “We understand this, but we want everyone to know about bingata, and that’s why we have created many small items that anyone can afford. We want people to remember Okinawa when they go back to their home countries,” Yamashiro says. He adds that, “The experience workshop would be a nice memory while staying in Okinawa too, I hope we can welcome as many people as possible who like Okinawa come and join the workshop, and create good memories together with unique souvenirs. We accept reservations from single persons to groups. We just need to know the number of visitors in advance to prepare materials, so we ask visitors to make their reservation at least three days in advance.”
Reservations can be made on facebook “Gusukubingata-okinawa-, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, website gusukubingata.com or by calling 098-887-3414. Credit card payments are accepted, and free parking is available. Address: 4-9-1 Maeda, Urasoe City. The Shop is open 10:00~18:00, the workshop studio 10:00 ~ 16:00. Both are closed on Sundays.