I met Mr Ohashi and my interpreter for the day, the lovely Ayako, and after some introductions we headed off for the day.
Ohashi-san would give a personal insight into the long tradition of bamboo weaving (Take-zaiku) in Beppu. At the Traditional Bamboo Craft Centre were historical and contemporary examples of weaving in everyday objects including lampshades, sieves, fish traps, flower vases and baskets for carrying all manner of things. There were so many weaving types. They included pine needle, octagonal, reticulated, chrysanthemum bottom, rinko and hexagonal weaving patterns. Unfortunately photography was not permitted in the exhibition.
Ohashi-san explained that each bamboo variety has slightly different qualities that lend themselves to the making of certain objects. Bamboo varieties on display included:
– Kurochiku (black bamboo, scrolls, fences, decoration)
– Hachiku (light coloured bamboo used for tea whisk)
– Gomadake (speckled bamboo)
Beppu artisans use madake bamboo. Madake (Phyllostachys bambusoides) is one of the three most important and widely used types of bamboo in Japan, especially for Traditional Japanese Craft. (The other ones are moso and hotchiku). Madake grows large and is so widely used because of the quality and straightness of the culm (stem) and the smoothness of its nodes (horizontal rings).
There was a special dedicated area for the work by bamboo master artisans including the first National Living Treasure in Bamboo Craft, Shounsai Shono (1904-1974) and apprentices he mentored including Ryuun Yamaguchi and Nobuyuki Tanabe.
Here were examples that showed the shift of Bamboo craft from the everyday to the level of art (Mingei movement or ‘the art of people’). We spent some time with the works as they were so intricate, the variety of colour, weave and designs numerous and I had so many questions for Ohashi-san.