3. Bamboo Crafts Where the Local’s Spirit Remains


Bamboo Crafts Where the Local’s Spirit Remains

“Takaba” in Koshi City is an area with a lot of bamboo grove. The Koshi City Bamboo Crafts Association, which mainly consists of local residents, cuts out and weaves bamboo and turns it into baskets, colanders, and lanterns. This year marks the 24th year since this association established, and the average age of its members is over 70 years old. Since they don’t have a “teacher”, the members teach each other to improve their skills instead, which allows them to create easy-to-use products at a reasonable price.

Old-fashioned living tools made from local resources.

Ten years ago, I bought a bamboo basket with a handle at a local event in Kikuchi. The shop is “Koshi City Bamboo Crafts Association” from the neighboring town. The staff at that store said, “We learned bamboo crafts as a hobby, and I demonstrate and sell these crafts several times a year.” The quality of their crafts is too complete for a hobby, and although they are well woven, the prices are reasonable. I have used the bamboo baskets to carry various things all the time, but there are no signs that they will break. The luster is getting deeper year by year and I feel more and more attached to it. I visited the “Koshi City Bamboo Crafts Association” to hear the story on a spring day. In the craft training room of the Koshi City General Center, where the association is based, a regular meeting was held that had been canceled for a long time due to Covid-19. The members seem to be enthusiastic about the work, but a roar of laughter happened here and there. here and there. A gentle breeze was blowing from the open windows, and I felt comfortable even though it was my first time.  
The “Koshi City Bamboo Crafts Association” was established 24 years ago. “I recruited members in the city’s public relations magazine at the end of 1996. Then, about 30 people wanted to participate, so I started this association in January of the following year,” said Fujiki, the first chairman. Mr. Toshiaki Fujiki. Since the end of the war, he has made his own tools necessary for daily life from bamboo, and he wants to utilize the rich bamboo forest in that area. Therefore, he decided to set up a bamboo crafts association. The current chairman is Takanobu Nishimura, the 4th generation, and 21 members belong to this association. Basically, Koshi citizens are the members, but they also accept people from outside the city and some members actually come from Kumamoto City and Aso City.
“We have no teacher, and we improve our skills by teaching each other and creating crafts” says Nishimura. The association has a curriculum for each level based on the drawing collection produced by Kagoshima’s “Miyanojo Traditional Bamboo Craft Center”, and you can acquire bamboo crafting skills once you complete all the courses. Usually, each member works on their own, and at regular meetings twice a month, members share tips and exchange opinions on completed crafts. Vice-Chairman Katsuhiro Kitazato smiles, “I was invited by my uncle, but he left. Still, I decided to stay .”
“This bamboo crafting seems to suit my personality because it requires a lot of focus. When I devote myself to the work with the desire to create good ones, I feel I want to be better at this. Not only did I become to understand the attraction of the craftwork through bamboo crafts, but I was able to make friends and got something I could be passionate about.
At the “Koshi City Bamboo Crafts Association,” the members need to start obtaining bamboo on your own. Those who have a bamboo grove in Koshi city obtain bamboo from their own bamboo grove, and those who do not get it from a member or acquaintance’s bamboo grove. Then, dry it in the sun to drain water, boil it in a kettle to drain oil, and dry it again.…. Next, in order to make bamboo sticks, cut these bamboos to the required length, divide them, and make them the same width and thickness according to what you want to make. Then you can finally start weaving. Mr. Nishimura said, “It’s true that some people quit because even making bamboo sticks is not an easy task. However, this effort plays an important role to maintain bamboo grove that has been left due to the aging of the owners. ” Before Covid-19, in order to learn the knowledge of bamboo work, we visited Kagoshima and Oita once a year, where bamboo work is popular. All local events to display and sell the crafts have also been cancelled. However, they keep on their activities to widely convey the appeal of bamboo crafts and bamboo products by starting consignment sales at direct sales stores in the city and trying to participate in the “Koshi brand certification business” promoted by Koshi City. Mr. Fujiki said, “Bamboo Crafts require us to use not only the hands but also the head. What’s fun about making bamboo crafts is understanding the characteristics of bamboo and thinking of various aspects such as the angle, order, and pressure for weaving. I want the locals to know more about this activity. ” He continued, “I’m 91 years old now. I’m fine in my second life. Thanks to bamboo crafts, I’m still energetic .” Next to him, Mr. Nishimura nodded with a smile, “I’m sure it is.”