Ryukyu glass is manufactured by experienced glass artisans who blow each piece of glasswork by hand.
Early glass production in Okinawa dates back to 1910, when merchants from Kagoshima prefecture founded a company known as Okinawa Glass Works in Naha City. At that time, main products manufactured were practical, clear glass items such as lamp chimneys, medicine bottles, pickling jars and fly traps. While factory premises were lost in the ravages of WWII, glass production quickly resumed with postwar economic recovery. As Okinawa came under American military rule, glass production gradually shifted to reflect American demand for colorful glass souvenirs, tableware and ornaments. Export routes with America and the Japanese mainland were established, leading to dramatic expansion of the company’s market share. After the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese control, the production of Ryukyu glass evolved to cater to the needs of tourists from mainland Japan. Production methods, materials and product designs were improved and developed based on traditional glass making techniques, leading to a diverse range of products spanning multiple genres. Amongst them include popular, well-known signature designs such as molded glass with vertical lines and spiral patterns, intentional decorative cracks known as “ice cracks,” as well as various types of “bubble glass”. Ryukyu glass, which is made using discarded glass bottles and raw glass, was officially designated as a prefectural traditional craft product on June 12th, 1998.
|Material||Discarded glass bottles, raw glass (silica sand, soda ash, limestone), others (coloring, foaming agents etc.)|
|Place of manufacture||Itoman City, Onna Village, Uruma City, Yomitan Village, Nago City, Nanjo City, Ishigaki City, Motobu Village, Naha City, Okinawa City|
|Main Products||Tableware (glasses, plates), ornamental vases, accessories, others (decorative ornaments etc.)|
|Partnership name and date of establishment||Okinawa Ryukyu Glass Manufacturing Industry Cooperative Association, May 1st, 2018|
|Date designated by national||－|
|Date designated by prefecture||June 12th, 1998|
|Source||*Source: "An Outline of Promotion Strategies for the Craft Industry"; official website of Okinawa Ryukyu Glass Manufacturing Industry Cooperative Association (https://okinawaryukyuglass.wixsite.com/ryukyuglass)|
Ryukyu glass, which enjoys strong popularity as souvenirs for people visiting Okinawa, is manufactured widely across the islands of Okinawa. Glass production in the prefecture began with a single glass factory that was founded in Naha City at the end of the Meiji era. After the war, various types of Ryukyu glass rich in ornamentation and vivid colors were successfully developed. As the tourism industry grew, the number of glass artisans increased in line with rapid expansion of the market for glass products, a development that allowed the industry to conceptualize diverse product lineups. In May 2008, 18 glass making companies came together to strengthen the branding power of Ryukyu glass by establishing the Okinawa Ryukyu Glass Manufacturing Industry Cooperative Association. Currently, there are about 30 companies and independent workshops producing Ryukyu glass in Okinawa.