CONTRIBUTED BY AMY MADDOCKS
On a recent rainy weekend we decided to go for a drive to the southern portion of the island. We went to the usual places; Cape Kyan, Ryukyu Glass Factory, etc., but then we noticed another silly photo-op of those plywood character cut-outs you can look like a geek in. Me, being a lover of almost all things Okinawan (minus the humongous bugs), just had to stop for a picture.
That’s when we discovered a beautiful Lacquerware shop. I’ve seen Okinawan Lacquerware for sale at almost every souvenir shop on the island, but this was like walking into “LaquerLand” for lack of a better term! Everything in the entire store was a piece of art. From magnets and hair pieces to dragons and Shisa dogs. We spent around 40 minutes just walking around looking at all the pieces for sale.
Prices are a little high, but any quality Lacquerware will be. They do have a clearance section (my favorite) where you can find some items at 50% off. The piece I picked—small as it was—was carefully wrapped by the employee in several layers to protect it. She even offered to gift wrap it if I was giving it away. I wasn’t—that piece was selfishly bought for myself.
It was at this time that we found out they offer daily classes for painting your own Lacquerware for only around 2,400 Yen. Children as young as 5 can do the class if you call ahead and let them know you have little ones. They also offer tours of the process, from drying the wood all the way to completion. You need to call to arrange for a tour, as well. They are open each day from 10:00 to 5:00 and closed on Sundays and Japanese Holidays. They also have stores in Urasoe and Tomigusuku, but those locations just sell the products. Tours and craft sessions are only available at the Itoman location.
Not a lot of English was spoken while we were there, but we knew enough Japanese and they knew enough English that we were able to communicate. The next time you are on the southern end of the island, stop by this beautiful shop and immerse yourself in art!
Directions: Travel south on Route 58 and continue south when it changes to Route 331. Continue towards Himeyuri Peace Museum and past Nanbu Hospital. The shop is just down the street from the Ryukyu Glass Village on the right side. You’ll see the sign out front; turn right and there is plenty of free parking.
Do these people have a catalog? Anything in English. Would love to order from them.
Editor’s Note: Due to technical difficulties this comment was not saved on our server. We are re-publishing it now to continue the conversation on this post.
From Natalie Sundberg on 9/15/13:
“I am looking for Bembo lacquer from Okinawa. We bought several pieces of their work in the early 50′s. Can you help me?”
I would contact the company through their website listed in the article. I haven’t heard of Bembo lacquer myself, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist! Good luck, and sorry I don’t have more information for you.
Bembo Lacquerware Company is now defunct. I also have some that I found at a thrift store, and I researched it because I was hoping to find someone who could restore it for me. I have had no luck in that department. You can find Bembo lacquerware for sale on Ebay and Etsy.
Hi Amy. Many thanks for sharing your experience. I’m curious. Do you remember the prices for some of the products on display? I have a small lacquerware business in Vietnam and I’m always curious to hear what kind of prices are being charged around the world. I tried Googling for this information, but there’s not a lot in English. Thanks in advance for your response.
Sorry I just saw your response! The prices ranged from 500 Yen all the way up to 500,000 Yen. Most items seemed very pricey, except for the clearance sections. Those were more reasonable. However, I realize a LOT of work goes into each piece, so I would expect to pay more. Hope that helps!