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Bingata show the true colors of Okinawa

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2003-11-29

If you’re looking to buy a distinctly Okinawan Christmas present for a friend or family member, you ought to check out the bingata display at the Global Gallery at the Plaza House Shopping Center. Various bingata items created by esteemed artist Sachiko Yafuso are currently on display. From traditional kimono to modern day variations, there’s something for everyone. Yafuso’s art will be on display until November 20, and the display is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday.

Bingata is a type of cloth that has been dyed with a multiple colored design. Bingata itself means a method of dyeing fabric; however it is used in reference to Kimonos and other specially dyed things. It has been traditionally made on Okinawa for the past five hundred years. The dyeing technique was presumably first introduced from southern China in the 14th century and was traditionally made for those belonging to the samurai class during the Ryukyu kingdom. In recent years, this kind of art has had a revival and it is has become very fashionable to own and wear bingata.


Sachiko Yafuso has been making bingata for 35 years. She claims that she was first intrigued by bingata when she was in the art club at her high school. “My teacher was making bingata,” says Yafuso. “I became fascinated and decided that I wanted to pursue bingata making.” Yafuso went to design school after high school and started her own business after graduating. Aside from creating her own original bingata, she also teaches adults and children the traditional art at community halls in Naha City and Okinawa City. If you would like to learn the art of bingata, call Yuriko at 090-7294-7509 (English), or 098-933-3502 (Japanese). The next class will be held on December 18.

According to Yafuso, it takes about three months to create a kimono. Getting an idea is the most time consuming part, but it takes about three weeks of physical work before a kimono is complete. The end result is a stunning piece of art. Yafuso says that needs to travel to get ideas for her work. She finds inspiration in plants, animals, landscapes, and aspects of everyday life. Some of her bingata creations are very mathematical, and others are lighthearted. Some are beautiful in their simplicity, and others are stunning in their complexity.


During traditional times, bingata were worn only by royalty. It was prohibited for commoners to wear this type of clothing. In fact, different classes of royalty wore different kinds of bingata. Nowadays, wearing a bingata kimono is like a hobby for some people. They are often worn on happy occasions such as weddings, seijinshiki (coming-of-age day), to company parties, and to other festivities. They are also worn during traditional dances. In modern days, the form of art has become more flexible and you can find items such as coasters, purses, business card cases, cocktail dresses, neckties, and more. Though bingata is a traditional art, it has many appealing modern applications.

Every pattern on a bingata has a concept and this enables bingata to be both beautiful and meaningful. For instance, a fan is a symbol of spreading luck and birds symbolize freedom and dreams coming true. Yellow represents Okinawa’s bright sunshine and was traditionally a color of royalty. Okinawans enjoy dyeing a variety of patterns to give a visual representation of the Okinawan islands. You will often find pictures of the ocean, cherry blossoms, sea shells, and other Okinawan aspects.

Bingata are considered to be family treasures. They are made from silk, but they need to not be kept in a drawer. They must be taken out every once in a while to get some air. Though pricey, if you can afford to purchase one of these, it would be an excellent family heirloom to pass on from generation to generation and a nice memory to take with you wherever you go in life. The art of bingata is one of the most important traditions of Okinawa. Be sure to check out Yafuso’s display and see a master’s work firsthand.

Driving to the Plaza House Shopping Center is very easy. Drive south on rt. 330 from Kadena Gate 2 street and you will see a large shopping complex on your left after a few kilometers that says Plaza House. If you get to the Awase Golf Course, you have gone too far. You can park inside the shopping center’s parking garage or in their outside parking lot. The gallery is right next to the Chinese restaurant.

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