Suruga bamboo crafts Suruga takesensuji zaiku
A woven mesh of light and round bamboo strips
Graceful, harmonious curves
What is Suruga bamboo crafts ?
Suruga Take Sensuji Zaiku or bamboo ware are produced in the Shizuoka City area, Shizuoka Prefecture. In the basin of the upper reaches of the Abe River in Shizuoka, good quality bamboos have grown wild since ancient times, and bamboo ware has been made by the people of the region for thousands of years.
The characteristic features of Suruga Bamboo Ware are the weaving of round bamboo strips measuring as little as 0.8 mm in diameter; the term sensuji (1,000 lines) refers to the fact that 1,000 of the fine strips can be laid out on a 90 cm wide tatami mat. There are several bamboo ware production regions across Japan such as Kyushu or Hokuriku; however, most of them use flat strips for weaving, while the Suruga area uses extremely fine round strips. A typical Suruga bamboo article is made by using a unique bending technique to create fine flexible strips, which are inserted into a bamboo base frame drilled with small holes and then woven into exquisitely attractive free form shapes. Nearly the entire production process, from the making of bamboo strips through to assembly, is carried out by one craftsman.
The finished bamboo ware perfectly showcases the color, luster, and texture of bamboo, and the elegant suppleness created by the delicate curves of the round strips is fascinating to the eye.
The basin of the Abe River and its tributary Warashina River has been a production center of fine quality bamboos from the oldest times. From the ruins of Toro, bamboo baskets and perforated strainers have been excavated inferring that in the latter stage of the Yayoi period (300 BC-250 AD) bamboo ware was already in daily use.
In 1607, when Tokugawa Ieyasu chose Sumpu Castle in Suruga Province as his residence, many different kinds of artisans moved to the area and it naturally developed into a production center of many crafts, and the name of Suruga Bamboo Ware was widely spread. In the early years of the Edo period (1603-1868), woven bamboo pillows became popular among daimyos (local lords) who called at post stations during their alternate-year of residence in Edo. According to old documentary records, in the Kan-ei era (1624-1644), instead of the expensive rattan braided hats widely favored in Edo, the region was producing woven bamboo hats, and baskets to store bait for falconry, and bell cricket cages.
Suruga Bamboo Ware made of round strips started in 1840 when Suganuma Ichiga, a retainer of the Okazaki domain, visited Suruga and taught his techniques to Shimizu Inobei, a son of an inn keeper. Over the years, Shimizu Inobei kept developing the techniques, finally producing the delicate Suruga Bamboo Ware seen today.
General Production Process
- 1. Measuring and Cutting the Bamboo
The main bamboos harvested are madake, hachiku, mosochiku, and kurochiku. The bamboo is measured using a ruler, and cut by saw, then boiled in hot water to remove the oil content, and left to dry in the sun.
- 2. Splitting the Bamboo
To remove scratches and dirt from the bamboo surface, the outer layer is shaved and the bamboo is split to 1 cm or so in width. Since bamboo has strong vertical fibers, it is easily cut with a hatchet. Round strips are made from a tough layer close to the outer layer. The strips are shaved and thinned by hatchet.
- 3. Determining the Thickness
Using a sendai tool, the thickness of the strips are determined.
- 4. Making the Base Ring
A doran (a metal cylinder) is heated over a gas stove, and a bamboo strip is wound around it to make a ring. After holding the bamboo around the cylinder for about 20 seconds, it is cooled and shaped within a samashi frame to create a beautiful ring. The ends of the bamboo ring are cut diagonally and joined by applying a special glue and distinctive tsugite technique to make the joint virtually invisible.
- 5. Making Strips (1)
A small knife is used to make a fine slit in the bamboo, which is then split further by a push of the hand. The tip is thinly shaved to a point.
- 6. Making Strips (2)
The shaved bamboo strips are made round by pulling them through a series of ever diminishing holes in an iron plate; from large to small, and from a coarse finish to a medium and then a smooth finished fine round strip.
- 7. Bending
The round bamboo strips may be woven to produce straight-lined articles such as cricket cages, but more interestingly by carefully bending them, it is possible to make bamboo ware in a variety of shapes such as flower vases or lamp shades. At one time, twenty to thirty bamboo strips are laid upon an electric-heated curved iron plate and bent. Uneven bending will affect the finished work, so the task requires much skill and care. Curved irons vary in size from 2 to 15 cm in diameter and are used to bend the strips in accordance with the curves of the design.
- 8. Drilling
The bamboo ring is marked and holes are individually machine-drilled; slightly changing the angle of the hole will create a different effect when the weaving is completed.
- 9. Assembly
Round strips are inserted in the ring holes and by careful bending and manipulation, the work slowly takes form; Suruga Bamboo Ware are renowned for their elegant curves and shapes.
Where to Buy & More Information
Sunpu Takumi Yado
ClosedWednesdays, December 30 to January 1
Business Hours9am to 5pm July 20 to August 31 9am to 6pm
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