Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Saturday 7 April 2018

visit bamboo crafts atelier in Yamazoe village

"I wish to continue to make till the end of my life"

Said a bamboo craftman in Yamazoe village, who has dedicated himself to bamboo for more than 60 years.

A young bamboo craftman from Oita prefecture visited Mr. Tanioku, and once they met each other at the atelier in Yamazoe village, they sat down on the floor and started to work for bamboo. Their thoughts and wills can be conveyed through the handiwork beyond generation.

The craft by the craftman in Yamazoe village is called "shoke", bamboo basket.
This is especially for rinsing rice in the past time when people used earth oven.

First, cut bamboo along with bamboo fibre in preparation for "higo" bamboo sticks. This process is especially time consuming.

In Yamazoe village, which once flourished as tea production area, also boasted about its production of "shoke", half of the village population was engaged in making shoke baskets in winter season after finishing tea processing.

After processing tea, water content of bamboo plant will be reduced, which is a suitable season for preserving bamboo.

Cutting bamboo from October to Spring sustain farmer's income during off-season of farming. Once, it is said that shoke basket production was a big industry, which enables farmers to construct big houses, called "shoke gotten (villa)"

Nowadays, the basket price is only 2500JPY, although it takes one full day to produce.
He continues to make basket not for earning income, but for just keeping his life unchanged from the past until the end of his life.

Even in the rain or wind, just keep producing everyday until he dies, this is his way of living. 

On the other hand, a yound artist, Mr. Mappon from Oita prefecture, makes refind items such as kitchen tools and accessories. It is a bit different from the crafts made by the old craftsman. 

The common problem of these two artisans is that there are decreasing bamboo which is suitable for making crafts From the abandoned bamboo forest without human control, people cannot  harvest good bamboos.

In order to harvest good ingredients, management of forest environment is indispensable. Not only successors of craftsman, but also good materials are also disappearing.

irori earth oven to make tea in frot of the entrance hall
The knowledge and skills of bamboo crafts are disappearing, however, the problem is decreasing value of bamboo products. How do we sell bamboo baskets at 10,000JPY, while there are 1000 JPY baskets imported from overseas?

Travelling and learning their stories can help them to support financially, and this could be a fair-trade for farmers.  Responsible travelling is to sustain handiworks and their rural life.