Osaka bamboo screens Osaka kongo sudare
Natural bamboo ideal for the summer:
fresh breeze, soft light and shade
What is Osaka bamboo screens ?
Osaka Kongo Sudare are bamboo blinds produced in the cities of Tondabayashi and Kawachi-Nagano in Osaka Prefecture. Tondabayashi City lies at the foot of Mt. Kongo, the highest mountain in Osaka, and good quality Japanese timber bamboo growing naturally in the area provide the raw materials for this local industry. The elegant and refined blinds made of natural bamboo are used as interior items that create a beautiful and gentle Japanese atmosphere. The industry continues to grow as they are very much appreciated as high-class interior fittings that match with the interior designs of modern households.
The history of bamboo blinds in Japan is considered to predate the 7th century, as the word sudare is mentioned in the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poems in Japan. The history of Osaka Kongo Sudare dates back to around 1700 in the early Edo period when the samurai made baskets and taught the villagers in Shindo Village (present Wakamatsu Town, Tondabayashi City) their skills. They added techniques of bamboo blinds in Kyoto, Kyo Sudare to their basket making skills, and this lead to the production of Okasa Kongo Sudare. In 1948, a method to use a cutter was devised in Kawachinagano, which made mass production of bamboo blinds possible. Over the centuries, Shindo Village kept growing as a production center of bamboo blinds and basket ware, and around 1960, the village became one of the leading centers in Japan. In 1985, Osaka Kongo Sudare was designated as a traditional craft of Osaka by the Governor of Osaka prefecture, and in 1996, it was designated as a national traditional craft by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. In 2004, the Sudare Museum was established to hand on the craft to future generations. Today, in addition to the production of blinds with traditional designs, contemporary designs that match our modern life style are being developed.
General Production Process
- 1. Felling and cutting bamboo The making of sudare starts with selecting three to four-year-old fine quality bamboos growing in bamboo thickets; they are usually felled from around October through to February, when their water content is at its lowest. The bamboos are washed and sun-dried, their color changing from a green-blue to the typical bamboo yellow. They are then cut to length.
- 2. Stripping the outer layer Naturally the surface of the cut bamboo has joints, scars, and stains, all of which are rectified or removed by scraping. The joint nodes are cut off individually by using a small bow-shaped knife, followed by stripping off the outer layer with a barking-knife. All these apparently simple tasks actually require a surprising degree of skill so as not to damage the beauty of the bamboo.
- 3. Splitting the bamboo The bamboo is repeatedly split into fine strips. A variety of tools are used such as a bamboo splitting knife, small Japanese sword, and hatchet to roughly split the lengths of round bamboo into eight strips of equal width, each of which is further split into four. Even though bamboo fiber runs in a lengthwise direction and has an easy-to-split structure, it is still a difficult task to accurately split it; despite this feature, skilled craftsmen split the bamboo quickly and smoothly by eye.
- 4. Making the strips The split bamboo is shaved with a small knife and divided into the outer and inner layers, and the strips are further shaved and thinned. Making strips of a uniform width is a difficult task; however, with one hand holding a strip and the other the small knife, the craftsman rhythmically shaves the strip with a practiced eye. The thickness and width of strips are made uniform and cut in accordance with the blind to be produced.
- 5. Polishing and coloring The completed bamboo strips are polished with a polishing machine, and strips to be used in blinds for shrines and temples are dyed yellow.
- 6. Assembling the blind The basic principle of assembly is very simple; individual strips are joined together with cotton or silk threads. The first strip of a regular blind is laid along a frame and every 10 cm or so, threads are tied to it. The next strip is laid alongside and the threads crossed over to hold it in place, and this process is repeated until the blind is finished. For ease of crossing the threads, they are first wound around reels, and the reels are thrown back and forth across the strip to affix it to the blind. The number of threads and intervals between them will vary depending on the thickness of the strip and the size of the blind. By adjusting the spacing of the threads different patterns can be created such as the classic chevron design. In the course of the threading, the reels create a rhythmic clacking sound, rather like a percussion instrument. Natural bamboo strips are not uniform; therefore, the craftsman discards misshapen strips as they work.
- 7. Attaching the border Both side edges of the blind are trimmed to size and a horizontal crosspiece of Nishijin silk damask or Japanese brocade is sewn on by hand as a border. When several blinds are arranged and hung in a row, it is difficult to ensure perfect pattern continuity with no misalignment, but with no ruler or other tools, the craftsman cuts the whole cloth in a straight line, maintaining the continuity of the beautiful design.
- 8. Attaching tassels and metal fittings Metal fittings and tassels are attached to finish this high-end Osaka Kongo Sudare made of the finest natural bamboo with beautiful ornamentation.
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