Ryukyu is the old name for Okinawa. It is said that Ryukyu Bingata production was started in 14th to 15th century when Ryukyu dynasty was thriving.
Before that, there was clothes dyed by rubbing for women and priests. Later, the techniques of stencil printing were imported from India and other Eastern Asian countries, then Ryukyu Bingata, the only stencil printing clothes in Ryukyu, was born.
It developed its unique style by adopting a lot of cultures and techniques, even Kyo Yuzen technique is used.
The special feature of Ryukyu Bingata is its vivid colors and dynamic design, just like the name, Bin (means colorfulness) and Gata (means various patterns) express. Usually vivid yellow and red are used, but some are dyed by Ryukyu Indigo in blue. Such are called Eshigata, and occupy one category of Bingata.
Base clothes varies in cotton, silk, and abaca. Usually pigments or plants are used as dyestuff. Some are literally dyed using model frames, but some are hand drawn like Yuzen. For such clothes, the patterns are covered by starches and dyed, then the patterns are colored after the clothes dyed.
Another characteristic of Ryukyu Bingata is its solidity. The secret is “Kumadori”, a kind of gradation dyeing used to each patterns. Pattern papers are convexly carved and this may help the dyeing to be unique, too.
Until Ryukyu dynasty’s downfall, Ryukyu Bingata was loved by celebrities and was even exported to China. However the art was in danger of extinct after World War II, now the techniques are restored.
Ryukyu Bingata was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1984.