Japan's Ryukyu Glass Growing in Popularity

By Yamamura, Midori | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 7, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Japan's Ryukyu Glass Growing in Popularity

Yamamura, Midori, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ryukyu glass, with its colorful simplicity, is coveted around Japan, not just in Okinawa Prefecture where it originated.

With the onset of summer, Ryukyu glass can be a cool gift and a receptacle for your favorite shochu.

"The colorful tones and air bubbles in the glass represent a beauty that occurs by chance," says Masaki Enomoto, store manager of Tokyo-based Ryukyu Glass Awaniko. "Craftspeople put their whole feeling into each product. This is why each piece has individuality."

Born in Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, the 25-year-old Enomoto has been manager of the store since 2010. The store, which sells to individuals and restaurants through the Internet, also provides items used in TV shows and films.

Ryukyu glass is generally made using the glassblowing technique in which melted glass is rolled at the tip of a hollow iron rod, and then molded when the craftsperson blows into the glass through the rod.

The production of Ryukyu glass began after World War II when local people made glasswork after melting Coca-Cola and soft-drink bottles discarded by U.S. troops.

As the color of a bottle is reflected in the product, the finished piece could be rainbow-hued.

"Due to impurities, such as bottle labels, minute air bubbles appeared in the glass. That made the glasswork popular," Enomoto says.

New glass is used most of the time nowadays, with coloring agents added to make them more attractive. Baking soda is used to produce air bubbles.

"When the weather becomes hot, serving cool green tea in a Ryukyu glass cup is the thing to do," Enomoto says.

One of the most popular products is a barrel-shape glass for drinking liquor on the rocks. The glass is about 3 inches tall and about 3 inches in diameter.

"As the regional shochu liquor awamori is popular in Okinawa, a glass with a wide mouth is preferred," Enomoto says.

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