Suruga Bamboo Thousand-Striped Crafts with Graceful and Delicate Curves | Shizuoka crafts

Suruga Bamboo crafts
Source: PAL SHOP

Traditional Japanese crafts that create uniquely Japanese lighting

Lighting is a very important part of the interior design that creates the atmosphere of the space. Poor lighting can make even the most wonderful room feel uncomfortable. Have you ever used old-fashioned Japanese lighting? It has a wonderful atmosphere. It is calm and moody. If you want to create such an effect, this is the lighting fixture for you. 

Suruga Bamboo Sen-suji-zaiku (or Suruga bamboo crafts)

A Craft Nurtured by the Japanese Aesthetic

Suruga Bamboo Sen-suji-zaiku uses its
characteristic graceful design with rounded strands and unique bending and
jointing techniques to produce a variety of products, such as flower vases,
insect baskets, and paper lanterns. Shikaku-bending is considered to be the
last of the bending techniques to be mastered. The reason why shikaku-bending
is considered difficult is due to the technique of bending all four corners in
the same way. If the angle or the size of the circle changes in just one place,
the entire piece will be distorted. This confectionery bowl is even more so
because it has a lid and tiers in addition to the square bending, which is
difficult even for a single piece.

The graphical round work on the lid is an
auspicious “Awaji-knot*. This craft has been woven in Shizuoka for
centuries, but it is a special craft that uses both round and flat strands, and
is so skillful and time-consuming that few craftsmen make them anymore.

Suruga bamboo crafts
Source: Miyabi Gyoto

Bamboo is not only functional in that it is
antibacterial and breathable, but also has a unique presence in both modern and
traditional interiors, thanks to its various elaborate designs. Depending on
the season or scene of use, it can be used not only as a confectionery vessel,
but also as a party container, an interior box, etc., in various ways according
to your own style. You will like Gifu Chochin if you feel this bamboo type of lightning.

Unlike bamboo from other parts of Asia,
Japanese bamboo grows about 15 meters in one year, whereas it takes three years
for Japanese bamboo to grow to the same extent. Japan has four seasons, and the
repetition of seasons with different conditions, such as cold and warm, results
in bamboo that is lean, smooth, and strong. It is the presence of Japanese
bamboo that gives birth to the finely crafted bamboo work, which has become
Suruga Bamboo Senjyu-zaiku.

Suruga Bamboo Crafts

History of Suruga Bamboo Craft


The central part of Shizuoka Prefecture
used to produce high-quality bamboo, and bamboo products have been popular
since ancient times. Traces of bamboo products can be found at the Toro Ruins
during the Yayoi period. In the Edo period (1603-1867), woven bamboo products
such as basket pillows, hats, flower vases, and insect baskets became popular
among lords, warriors, and travelers on the Tokaido Highway, and Sunpu’s bamboo
crafts came to be known throughout Japan as “Suruga-zaiku,” a
specialty of the region.

It is said that the bamboo crafts of Suruga
became known to the world because Ieyasu had his falconers make bait baskets
for his favorite falconry, and that the basket pillows used by the great priest
Tenkai for napping during the cherry blossom viewing held at Edo Castle around
the same time were popular among the samurai who traveled on the Tokaido
Highway during the Edo period. At that time, the fame of Suruga’s bamboo
craftsmanship was so well known that the phrase, “Doing filial duty is the
first priority for bamboo craftsmen,” was widely used. Bamboo crafts were
passed down from generation to generation as an inside job for warriors who
used small swords to make woven hats, basket curtains, and insect baskets.

The Transmission of Techniques

The delicate and graceful appearance of
today’s bamboo crafts began in 1840, when Suganuma Kazumasa, a samurai of the
Okazaki domain, stopped by Shizuoka and introduced the technique of
“maruhigo,” which is made by cutting thinly split bamboo into rounded
pieces. He excelled in various arts such as poetry, flower arrangement, tea
ceremony, and weaving, and his bamboo craftsmanship was also very artistic and
exquisite. The crafting technique of interweaving thousands of stripes, which
he passed down from generation to generation, was later highly acclaimed both
in Japan and abroad, and came to be known as “Suruga Bamboo Thousand
Stripes Craft.

Suruga Bamboo Sen-suji-zaiku today

Later, it was exhibited as a Japanese
specialty at the Vienna International Exposition in 1873, where it was well
received, and was widely exported to Europe during the Meiji and Taisho periods
and to the United States after the war’s end. The traditional techniques of
Suruga Bamboo Sen-suji-zaiku have been passed down from Suganuma Ichiga to the
present day, and in 1976, it was certified as a “traditional craft”
by the Minister of International Trade and Industry (currently the Minister of
Economy, Trade and Industry). Currently, the company is ambitiously developing
products for the living space, such as andon (Japanese lanterns), lampshades,
wind chimes, flower vases, bags, and confectionery containers.

Suruga Bamboo Thousand-Striped Craft

Preparation of wood

  • Cutting down the bamboo

Suruga Bamboo Sen-suji work is mainly made
from madake (madake), hachiku (hachiku), moso bamboo (moso bamboo), and other
types of bamboo that have been growing for three to four years. 
Once a year, the bamboo is cut down in the
winter when the moisture content is the lowest. The cut bamboo is cut to a
certain length and the joints are shaved off to prepare it for boiling.

  • Oil removal

Fresh bamboo contains water and oil, which
will rot if left cut, so the oil is removed within a week. 
Bamboo is placed in a caustic soda-filled
hot water pot, brought to a boil, and the surface dirt and tar are cleaned off.
15 minutes of boiling is followed by about a month of drying in the sun on a
well-ventilated mountaintop.

  • Drying

When the outer skin of the sun-dried bamboo
turns a beautiful ivory color, it is a sign that the bamboo has dried. The
bamboo is then transported to the workshop, where it lies under the ceiling for
another 1 to 2 years to dry completely.

2. making the round bamboo strips

  • Splitting, hewing, and thickness

The outer skin of the bamboo is shaved with
a small knife and the bamboo is split lengthwise with a hatchet to a width of
about 1 cm (split). Cut off the soft inner part of the bamboo and leave the
tough part (hegi). The inside of the bamboo is shaved evenly using a tool called
a sandai, and the thickness is determined (thickness determination).

  • Kowari-insertion/Kujiki

The bamboo is then split into stripes
(kouwari-iri) so as not to break the bamboo fibers, and the bamboo is split to
the end (kujiki) by taking the bamboo in hand and bending it left and right
with the hands. This is a unique technique of Sen-suji-zaiku that can only be
done with Japanese bamboo, which has a strong and sturdy flexibility.

  • Prefixing and String Pulling

Preparation work is done to thin the tip of
the bamboo before pulling the bamboo strips. Afterwards, the hinges are pulled
through a small hole with a blade in order of rough pulling, medium pulling,
and finishing pulling, resulting in a rounded and thin hinged piece.

3. frame making

After taking measurements, determining
width and thickness, and removing knots, the finished bamboo is used to make
the frame.

  • Marking and scaling

Thirteen to fifteen pieces of wood are
placed between the marking shears, and the necessary marks for the work are
efficiently made (marking). Marking for the string is also an important part of
the process to ensure a beautiful finish (scaling).

  • Ring making (round bending)

The material is wrapped around a heated
piece of wood and formed into a circle. As the temperature drops, the material
hardens into a round shape. Craftsmen use their intuition to adjust the heat
and time of wrapping.

  • Joint cutting and joining

Once the rings are formed, diagonal cuts
are made at both ends of the bamboo to join them together (joint cutting). The
ends are then glued together and clamped with scissors, and allowed to dry and
harden (joint joining). The finished loop will be so finished that the joints
cannot be seen.

  • Drilling holes in the frame

This is a very delicate process, and the
size of the holes varies from millimeter to millimeter depending on the
thickness of the string. The holes are drilled not only in a regular manner,
but also by slightly changing the angle of each hole to match the angle at
which the ladder is inserted. This is an important process that greatly affects
the assembly.

4. Finishing

  • Assembly and polishing

The frame is assembled by inserting the jaw
into the hole one by one. The wheel is turned on a potter’s wheel and polished
to a smooth, burr-free finish. The color and luster of the bamboo crafts will
increase as the years go by, and you can enjoy them for many years to come.

Suruga bamboo crafts

Master Craftsman

Eiichi Kuroda
Tamachi, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City (Bamboo
Studio Hanabusa)

Born in Shizuoka City in 1931. He studied
under his uncle, a bamboo craftsman, from 1947, and worked hard to master his
techniques, and after many years of research into the sophistication and design
of his products, he was able to produce the delicate and elegant Suruga bamboo
Sen-suji-zaiku that we see today.

Shosuke Kobayashi
Yanagi-cho, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City

Shosuke Kobayashi was born in Shizuoka City
in 1931. After graduating from school, he studied under Shoichi Omura, and
since then, he has been consistently engaged in researching bamboo craft
techniques and techniques. He is a leader in the industry in the processing of
elegant vases and delicate curving techniques.

Toshio Omura
Yanagi-cho, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City (Chikudai
Kobo Co., Ltd.)

Born in Shizuoka City in 1933. He has been
consistently refining his skills from beginning to end, and has contributed to
quality improvement through his outstanding skills and research improvements.
He has developed advanced braiding techniques such as “Koshiki-insho Ajiro
Weaving,” a technique using ultra-fine bamboo strips and coloring.

Kazuo Takahashi
Yoichi, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City (Takahashi
Bamboo Crafts)

Born in Shizuoka City in 1937. He has
consistently worked on bamboo craftsmanship and techniques, and has left behind
a legacy of outstanding works. In particular, he invented the technique of
masa-bending bamboo, and has completed unprecedented products by incorporating
the excellent bending technique that gives a sense of boldness into delicate
sen-suji-zaiku work.

Yasuhiro Shinomiya
Yawata, Suruga-ku, Shizuoka City (Shinomiya
Bamboo Crafts)

After graduating in 1957, Yasuhiro
Shinomiya began his career as a bamboo craftsman under his father, Shoichi
Shinomiya. His specialty is a combination of various bamboo weaving techniques
and delicate rounded bamboo strips, and his bold compositions leave many
viewers in awe.

Suruga bamboo crafts

 Incidentally, Japan has a rather large number of traditional crafts and products that utilize bamboo. For example, Boshu Fan and Kyo folding fan, which is a certified traditional craft.

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