Bamboo is one of Japan’s most characteristic plants. Of the 1,250 known types of bamboo in the world, 626 can be found in Japan.
In this bamboo-rich nation, Oita Prefecture is the number one producer of madake, or Japanese timber bamboo. Used predominantly for knitting and braiding, it forms the heart of Beppu bamboo ware, a governmentally designated traditional craft of Oita Prefecture.
Beppu bamboo ware is made in Beppu City in Oita Prefecture. Produced using the prefecture’s high quality madake, found predominantly around Beppu City, it’s commonly used for flower baskets and other kinds of baskets, as well as other products. With a large number of people employed in bamboo-related industries, Beppu bamboo ware production is a pillar of the local economy, alongside the tourist industry built around the area’s ever-popular hot springs.
The manufacturing of Beppu bamboo ware can be divided into four steps: seasoning the bamboo, processing, knitting and braiding, and finally finishing. The most important step is knitting and braiding, where the product’s shape is hand-woven using thin bamboo strips. The complex techniques employed in the process play a critical role in the final design of each product.
Beppu bamboo ware began to be recognized as early as the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), when baskets for peddling were made and sold in the area. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Beppu’s onsen, or hot springs, came to be known as the best in Japan, and bamboo ware began to be sold in the form of kitchenware for visitors to use during their stays. Very easy to use, these products became a popular Beppu souvenir. As the market quickly expanded, Beppu bamboo ware developed into a robust local industry.
Demand for everyday items made from bamboo has decreased in recent years. However, the trend has conversely led to production of quality artwork that makes use of these same long-cultivated skills. Boasting both artistic and functional qualities, Beppu bamboo ware continues to be manufactured to this day.
Traditional Bamboo Industry Museum
8-3 Higashisoen Beppu City Oita Prefecture
Oita Prefecture Tourism Hall
6-46 Shinminatomachi Beppu City Oita Prefecture