Toyooka wicker crafts Toyooka kiryu zaiku
Sturdy supple willow with natural warmth
Practical crafts, a fusion of traditional skills and modern designs
Toyooka Kiryu Zaiku is wickerwork produced in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. The origins of the craft are found in the baskets woven from Salix koriyanagi, a species of willow naturally growing in the area around the Maruyama River; in the era, when Toyooka was a thriving castle town, basket weaving was established as a local industry. Their characteristic features are natural textures and the durability of strong and supple willow. Every piece is hand-woven by artisans, and overflowing with warmth. They are practical traditional crafts quietly blending into our daily modern life. There are a wide variety of weaving techniques: six different types of basic weaving, 33 types of in-fill weaving, and 18 different styles of finishing for the basket rims. By combining them, an extensive range of shapes can be created. The main traditional articles are deep round baskets, and square containers with lids used as a lunch box; however, recently, Kiryu Zaiku handbags designed in modern styles are gaining in popularity.
Toyooka Kiryu Zaiku can be traced back to the beginning of the 1st century; in 27 AD, Ame no Hiboko no Mikoto, a prince of Silla (Korea), introduced wickerwork to Japan. Historians consider the techniques had started from weaving everyday items including baskets by using willows naturally growing in the area along the Maruyama River, and were established around the 9th century; indeed a Toyooka Kiryu Zaiku titled “Tajima no Kunisan Yanagibako” is among the articles held in the Shoso-in Treasure House of Todai-ji Temple. Later, in the Edo period (1603-1868), Lord Kyogoku Takamori promoted cultivation of willow and basketry techniques and distribution to develop the craft as a local industry, which resulted in Toyooka Kiryu Zaiku being known throughout the country. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), production of Western style handbags started, and in the Taisho period (1912-1926), hand baskets with a lock came into vogue, and they were called Taisho Baskets. Around 1965 Crown Prince Naruhito attending Gakushuin Kindergarten regularly used a small basket, which was known as a Naruchan Bag and it became immensely popular; today the industry has also broadly launched into general merchandise and interior fields.
General Production Process
- 1. Weaving the Bottom
The production work starts from weaving the bottom section. Tateri (willow rods to be used as uprights) are laid flat, and amiso (fine willow) are flat-woven through them to create the bottom of the basket.
- 2. Weaving the Lid
Next, the lid section is woven. At this time, adjustments are made so that the lid will fit over the tateri of the woven bottom section. Finer and particularly beautiful amiso are used for weaving the lid.
- 3. Securing the Bottom and Wooden Model, and Inserting Tateri
A wooden model in the shape of the basket is placed on top of the woven bottom, and the basket sides are prepared. Marks are made around the perimeter of the bottom weave at regular intervals and holes are opened to insert the tateri, ready for basic weaving. Support cores are added to supply strength and rigidity.
- 4. In-Fill Weaving
After weaving up to the desired height, the wooden model is removed and the rim is finished off. An ogamibuchi technique is used to adjust and ensure the lid fits tightly. Finally, the last two tateri are woven using a toji tool, and any excess is trimmed.
- 5. Weaving the Lid
The lid is woven in the same way as the bottom.
- 6. Making the Handles
The handles to be attached to the lid are made by winding willow around round-shaped wisteria cores.
- 7. Attaching the Handles and Lid
Finally the handles and lid are attached to complete the basket.