I arrived in Beppu late in the evening on Monday the 29 August 2011. It was a dash from Hakone-Yamoto Station back to Tokyo to catch my flight from Hanaeda Airport to Oita Airport. Beppu, Oita Prefecture, is south of Fukuoka and on the eastern shore of Kyushu Island.
Beppu rests on a bay and is bounded by mountains to the west. It is especially well known for its hot springs. During my time in Beppu I came to understand that Beppu’s hot springs are its life force; they run through its streets and form an integral part of everyday Beppu life.
There is a long history of people visiting the hot springs to relax and be healed (especially at the Yufuin hot springs). Early on there were very basic ways of living at these retreats. The people who visited needed cooking tools and so started making these out of the bamboo that was plentiful in the area. The steam from the springs was used to bend, shape and soften the bamboo once prepared. As people returned home they took with them the things they had made from bamboo. More people visited and more items were made. Through word of mouth the demand for bamboo craft increased and more craftsmen then visited and stayed to learn the craft, and imbue their own skill and knowledge.
The knowledge has been passed down through generations; both to newcomers and from craftsmen to their own children. In this way the tradition of bamboo weaving in the area has developed and been transformed into an art form. I had come to Beppu to meet with esteemed Bamboo Weaver and Installation Artist, Shigeomi Ohashi.
My time in Beppu with Ohashi was kindly arranged by my dear friend and fellow designer Fukutoshi Ueno.