Ryukyu Glass: unique, colorful and affordable

Ryukyu Glass Craft factory and shopping center at Fukuchi, Itoman City.

Ryukyu glass is one of Okinawa’s artisan specialties, dating back to the Meiji era about a century ago, but a craft that gained momentum in the post-World War II era as the island scrambled to make use of available materials discarded by the Americans.

Even the young can participate in making their own piece of Ryukyu glass.

Raw materials such as beer and soft drink bottles discarded on the U.S. military bases were taken by innovative Okinawa craftsmen, melted down and shaped into glasses, vases and dishes. The unique, distinctive appearance stems from the imperfections found in the glass itself.  In the 1950s, the U.S. forces found the colorful items so amazing, they commissioned products exclusively for their use on the bases.

Today, Ryukyu glass is high on the sightseeing and shopping lists for tourists and locals alike. The hub of Ryukyu glass activity is in Itoman, where the sprawling Ryukyu Glass Craft operations are centered.  Ryukyu Glass Craft is Okinawa’s largest shop selling Ryukyu glass. On the grounds, all customers are able to enjoy shopping, as well as experience the work of arts in the gallery certified by Okinawa Prefecture.

Ryukyu Glass Craft is the largest producer of Ryukyu glass on island.

The Ryukyu Glass Village encompasses a variety of activities, including the opportunity for visitors to personally create their own Ryukyu glass work of art. There is also an outlet shop where B class items are sold for half of their original price, and the manufacturing plant is also established for customers to have a closer look at the glass making by the craftsmen.

In the shopping center, many multicolored glass items are on the shelf such as cups, plates, accessories, watches, and interior objects such as lamps. Any item can be a great gift for someone special or, of course, to take home for personal use. . Each item is handmade by the craftsmen and although it may seem as they are all the same, they’re not.  A closer examination shows the difference of shades and weights.

At Ryukyu Glass Craft, visitors can experience hands-on crafting, and make an original glass, accessory, or candle. The would-be craftsman can choose from 11 varieties or crafts, the most popular being glass making. First, under supervision blow into a metal pipe and inflate the glass according to the pattern. Once it is inflated at the right amount, the craftsman will help roll the glass around and make the lip of the glass. This is a very fun experience, which can be done by children to adults. Once the glass is finished, it has to cool down gradually and once it does, it will be shipped to the visitor’s home.

English speaking staff is available. The glass making experience is conducted every day, three times a day at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Reservation is required and can be made by calling (098) 997-4784 or email kankou@ryukyu-glass.co.jp.  Ryukyu Glass Craft and the Ryukyu Glass Village are located at 169 Fukuchi, Itoman City.  It about 20-minute drive south from Naha Airport.