Katsuyama bamboo crafts Katsuyama take zaiku
Drawing out the natural beauty of bamboo
With time and use, bamboo mellows
Katsuyama Take Zaiku are bamboo baskets produced in Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture. Bamboo wares are made in many areas across Japan from a variety of bamboos such as mosochiku and hatake; Katsuyama Take Zaiku use madake bamboo growing around Maniwa City. Originally, the main products were souke, open weave baskets, used in daily life and farm work. Four types of basket are known as typical Katsuyama Take Zaiku: ouzouke for storing grain, mizouke to carry vegetables and other crops, komeage-zouke for draining washed rice, and meshi-zouke to hang rice under the eaves and prevent damage. Today, in keeping with modern times, popular additions to the range are bread baskets, hand baskets, and flower vases.
Katsuyama Take Zaiku are distinguished by their durability and ease of use and they are particularly known for using minimally processed green bamboos. Other region’s madake crafts are made of bamboo heated over a fire or boiled, but Katsuyama Take Zaiku use completely untreated green bamboo; this production method has been traditionally passed down for many generations. These simple and solidly-made bamboo baskets make the best use of the natural beauty of green bamboo, and with the passage of time, the color changes to a cognac amber.
It is thought that the production techniques of Katsuyama Take Zaiku were established around 1860. However, as the baskets in those days were utilitarian, today only a few examples have survived. For this reason, it is difficult to give a specific year of origin, but in old documents of the Yamatani family considered to be written around 1860, and in an application for a sake brewery license in 1877, we find the mention of harisouki bamboo baskets and kamesofuke used to store or carry grain. This would indicate that by at least the end of the Edo period Katsuyama Take Zaiku were widely available and distributed. Moreover, it is known in those days, some households invited bamboo basket makers to stay for several days to make baskets for a whole year, which tells us that bamboo ware were essential for people’s daily life and farm work. The crafts were sold in the Chugoku region by peddlers, and because of their high practicality, they were much appreciated as daily living necessities; over the years they spread throughout the country. In 1979, Katsuyama Take Zaiku was designated as a national traditional craft.
General Production Process
- 1. Cutting and Washing
Since the raw material madake bamboo is minimally processed, the selection of bamboo is very important. After one year of growth, the thickness and height of a bamboo do not change, but with age the color and hardness change; bamboo aged 3 to 5 years is the best for bamboo ware. In November and December, the best time to cut high quality bamboo with little insect damage, enough bamboo for a year is cut with a bamboo cutting saw. The bamboo is cleaned up with a scouring brush to remove dirt before splitting.
- 2. Splitting the Bamboo
Bamboo is split in accordance with the product dimensions; this is the most difficult task, and it is said that it takes 2 to 3 years to master. Firstly, bamboos measuring 1 to 5 meters long are split in half lengthways using a special hatchet. The bamboo is further split with a sharper hatchet into stakes, and the fine higo strips often measuring just several millimeters wide that will be woven around the stakes. Some stakes are also used as rims, and the thickness of higo varies according to purpose. It is important to use a very sharp hatchet as it will affect the luster of the finished product.
- 3. Weaving
The basic weaving method of Katsuyama Take Zaiku is gozame-ami (mat plaiting). Higo are split to produce two types: one made from the green outer layer; and the other from the white inner layer. They are alternately woven to create simple but tasteful designs. In the weaving process, firstly, a frame is created based on the traditional dimensions and using the stakes; the higo strips are then woven through the stakes. In this stage, beautiful patterns are created by the artisan’s skillful handwork. When the weaving is completed, the vine of a local moonseed is used to bind the rim of the basket. Only products bound with moonseed vine are designated as national traditional crafts, while those products finished with wire or the like are classified as ordinary crafts.
- 4. Completion Katsuyama Take Zaiku are completely hand-made, and it is quite common for one artisan to carry out most of the production process.
Where to Buy & More Information
Okayama Kanko Bussan Center
ClosedYear end and new year holidays(January.1-2）, 2nd Tuesday of each Month