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Brilliant colors accent locally produced glassware

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-05-22

The art form began in the 1860’s, during Japan’s Meiji era.

Ryukyu glassware began its assent to popularity, though, in the aftermath of World War II, when Okinawa-based GI’s tossed away thousands of glass soda bottles. Citizens of the occupied island seized upon the bottles and transformed them into drinking cups, glasses and art forms.

Okinawans created the products as a necessity on the war-ravaged island, but American soldiers saw beauty in the handmade products, which still contained the impurities of the soda bottle glass, and were quickly ready to fork over cash to have the glassware.

A cottage industry was born, and today, decades after the war, Ryukyu glassware’s beauty and originality has fostered a large following. It has now become a principal souvenir source for tourists, and the industry has matured far beyond those original soda bottles. Glass blowing is an art, and Okinawans have perfected it.

Across Okinawa, from Nago in the north to Itoman in the south, Ryukyu glass is available for sale. Often, there are opportunities for tourists to witness the glass products being produced.

Gyokusendo, a large theme park complex south of Naha, has a large Ryukyu glass manufacturing facility, open to tourists to watch and take pictures. A unique byproduct of the experience is being able to purchase the vase, glass, cup or flower the visitor saw being produced.

In the Nago area, Kyoei Glass offers the same, and more. At the facility in Onna Village, across Highway 58 from the Sun Marina Hotel, visitors can browse the workshops and watch artisans at work.

For a nominal fee, the visitor can also participate in short workshops, designing his/her own glassware.
On the other end of the island, in Itoman, other Ryukyu glassware factories offer tours and activities for visitors.

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