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Okinawan souvenirs

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Those in search of local crafts will find beautiful bingata textiles the most appealing. Originally reserved for court ladies, bingata fabrics are hand-dyed with natural pigments from hibiscus flowers and various vegetables, in simple but striking patterns. Also worth searching out are the fine jōfu cloths of Miyako-jima and the Yaeyama Islands, once gifted in tribute to the local monarchs. Ceramics are thought to have been introduced to the region from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century, but Ryūkyū potters concentrated on roof tiles and fairly rustic utensils. Nowadays, they churn out thousands of sake flasks and shiisā – the ferocious lion figures that glare down at you from every rooftop. The exquisite local lacquerware has a long history in the islands, too, having been introduced over five hundred years ago from China, but the glassware you’ll find is much more recent: it’s said production took off in the postwar years when Okinawans set about recycling the drinks bottles of the occupying US forces.

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