The past of Takekogei, bamboo craft. (竹工芸)
Takekogei, bamboo craft, is a craft work that uses bamboo.
In Japan, it has been cultivated for a long time because its evergreen, upright shape is considered auspicious.
Bamboo products have a long history and have been used as tools for daily life since the Jomon period, and many bamboo products such as flower baskets and formal baskets can be seen at the Shosoin in Nara prefecture.
Throughout the periods, after Sen Norikyu’s mastery of wabi-cha, bamboo tools were invented in the world of tea ceremony.
The skill and technique of using bamboo has been passed down to the present day, and many elaborate works that cannot be made by machines are still being produced today.
Features of the Bamboo craft, Takekogei
Bamboo has the characteristics of pliable, resilient and resistant to breakage.
It can be used not only as it is, but also as a bamboo string, Takehigo, to make a variety of other kinds of things.
From daily necessities such as colander and baskets to musical instruments, bamboo swords, and construction materials, the use of bamboo products is really diverse.
Bamboo products are also used for tea ceremony, flower arrangement and interior decoration, enriching people’s lives.
It may be said that Japan is the only country where bamboo products are used in such a wide range of ways.
A variety of bamboo crafts
This is a kitchen utensil made from thinly split and thinly shaved bamboo woven together. It is used to lay out food or to drain washed food.
It is made by knitting thinly split bamboo with yarn and stitching it together. It is used to roll ingredients such as nori-maki into a stick. The side where the surface of the bamboo is sticking out is the front.
Chasen, tea whisk
More than one half of the bamboo tube is broken into small pieces with a small knife and made into about 70 to 120 tips. It is used to make matcha tea.
This toy is made by shaving a thin piece of bamboo and using it as a propeller, then attaching a handle of a bamboo string to the center. Rotate the handle so that the palms of both hands are rubbed together and fly.
Takehigo, bamboo strings used for bamboo products
Takehigo is a thin stick made by breaking a bamboo stem into small pieces. Bamboo craft is made by knitting these Takehigo or combining them with other pieces of Takehigo.
Bamboo has fine fibers and can be torn into many thin pieces, but making Takehigo is a very difficult task.
A piece made by knitting Takehigo is called “Amimono”, and a piece made by combining parts made with Takehigo’s lines is called “Kumimono”.
There are various ways to knit with Takehigo, such as Yotsume-ami and Mutsume-ami and so on.
The wonder of Bamboo
What makes bamboo so surprising is its phenomenal growth rate.
It has been recorded that the bamboo, called Madake, grew about 120 centimeters a day.
What is unusual is the way the bamboo flowers bloom. They bloom all at once, bear fruit all at once, and then wither all at once.
The flowering cycle of the Madake is said to be 120 years, and as recently as the 1960s and 1970s, it bloomed all at once and then withered all at once.
Bamboo crafts in recent years
In modern Japan, bamboo crafts such as baskets and colanders have been replaced by cheap plastic products, and as the number of young people who enjoy the tea ceremony and flower arrangement has decreased, expensive flower baskets and tea utensils cannot be sold, so the demand for bamboo crafts itself has decreased.
On the other hand, overseas, there is a growing need for Japanese bamboo crafts. It is becoming more and more appreciated as “art” than the general image of Japanese crafts and daily tools.
As more and more collectors, especially in Europe and the United States, have substantial collections, some Japanese bamboo craft artists have found a way to make a living overseas.
We would like to think about what we can do about the future of bamboo crafts.