Suruga Bamboo Basketry

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The watershed of Abekawa river, which runs through Fuchu, Shizuoka and the Warashita river, has produced good-quality bamboo since the old days. Bamboo colanders and baskets from the remains of the Yayoi era (from the third century BC to the third century AD) have been unearthed here, which tells us that bamboo products have been historically used as everyday tools in this area.

The craftwork called “Suruga-takezaiku” is made through the process of a single artisan folding takehigo (thin bamboo sticks, about 2mm in diameter, made from cracking bamboo into pieces) one by one, for a resulting creation that looks as if it is comprised of a thousand sticks. This is how the word sensuji – one thousand lines – was later added to its name. While takezaiku in other areas uses flat bamboo sticks, those in Suruga are round. They require extra effort in processing, which gives an elegant touch to the finished product.

The beginning of this takezaiku goes back to around 1840, when a man named Suganuma Ichiga, a member of the Okazaki Domain (eastern part of Aichi Prefecture) who was highly skilled in flower arrangement and tea ceremony, stopped by in this area and taught the technique to the son of the owner of Hanaya (an inn where he was staying), a man named Shimizu Iehe. Iehe then went on to teach many more disciples the technique until his eventual death. Elaborate flower vases, sweets containers, trays and andon (lampstand with a paper shade) made from sturdy bamboo were spread to many different parts of the country during this era, and quite quickly as well, as travelling was quite popular at the time.

In 1873, this technique was presented at the World Expo in Wein as a specialty product from Japan. The unique Eastern method of delicately folding bamboo caught attention, which led to the exporting of many products in the following years. In 1976, it was certified as a Traditional Craft by the Minister of International Trade and Industry.

Recently takezaiku and its unique style has been adopted in the field of home interior design, and with the development of new takezaiku creations such as lamp shades or lampstands, one can now feel an enhanced presence of traditional craftwork in everyday life. The highly stylish form of takehigo making layers of shade and shadow with its delicate and elegant curves matches many different scenes in our contemporary life, whether they are Japanese or Western styled.

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