Japanese traditional crafts that make use of natural bamboo materials

Japanese bamboo blind
Source: Tondabayashi City

Osaka Kongo Sudare is a traditional Japanese craft for Summer

Osaka Kongo Sudare is a bamboo product
produced in Tondabayashi City, Kawachinagano City, and Osaka City, located in
the southern part of Osaka Prefecture. Used in modern life as indoor
partitions and as sunshades, Osaka Kongo Noren has great appeal for its ease of
use, such as the ability to easily adjust the amount of light and wind entering
a room. On the other hand, the elegant bamboo blinds made of natural materials
are deeply rooted in Japanese life as a summer tradition, and give a uniquely
Japanese sense of coolness.

The production area was formed by the
flourishing production of high-quality bamboo blinds using madake bamboo that
grows wild at the foot of Mount Kongo, the highest mountain in Osaka, and the
Katsuragi mountain range. Elegant and prestigious bamboo blinds made from
natural bamboo are used as interior decorations and have a gentle beauty with a
Japanese atmosphere. It continues to make great strides as a prestigious
interior decoration item in modern architectural design.


What is Sudare?

Sudare, Japanese bomboo blind
Source: Osaka Traditional Crafts Industry Promotion Council

Sudare (bamboo blinds) may be unfamiliar
interior decoration in foreign countries. However, they are very useful not
only for interior decoration but also for practical use.

For climate
Summers in Japan are hot,
humid, and extremely humid. This is when sudare come in handy. Like curtains,
sudare prevent the inside of a room from being seen from the outside, but what
makes sudare different from curtains is their air permeability. Because sudare
are made of rows and rows of bamboo, there is a gap between adjacent bamboos.
This ensures ventilation and allows sufficient airflow into the room. This air
flow lowers the humidity inside the room and creates a comfortable atmosphere
inside the room even in the hot and humid Japanese summer.

For sunshade effect
At first
glance, it may seem that there is a gap between the curtains and the sun’s
rays, but SUDARE is much more effective in blocking out the sun than curtains.
One such example is the installation on the “outdoor unit” of an air
conditioner. If you use sunshades and screenings as a sunshade for outdoor
units, the temperature of the outdoor unit itself will decrease, and the
efficiency of the air conditioner will be affected. Also, for those who enjoy
gardening on balconies, etc., the sunshade can be used for houseplants that are
sensitive to sunlight to soften the excessively strong sunlight.

History of Osaka Kongo Sudare

The bamboo blind industry reached its
heyday around 1960, and was designated as a “traditional Osaka craft”
in 1985, and as a “traditional craft” by the Minister of Economy,
Trade and Industry in 1996.

The origin of the Sudare (Japanese blind) is
believed to date back to the Asuka and Nara periods, and it is said that the Omisu, a bamboo blind used for partitions and decoration at court and other
places during the Heian period, is the prototype for today’s Ozashiki noren. It
is said that the original Osaka Kongo Bamboo blind was made in Shindo Village
in Tondabayashi during the Meireki era (the Edo period), starting with the
making of bamboo baskets, which was then followed by the making of bamboo
blinds. The elegant and elegant bamboo blinds made from natural materials have
a Japanese elegance and style.

Sudare, Japanese bamboo product
Source: Osaka Traditional Crafts Industry Promotion Council

The common background of the Tondabayashi
and Kawachinagano areas is that they both produce high-quality madake bamboo at
the foot of Mount Kongo. However, the manufacturing process differs between the
two regions. It is said that the origin of bamboo crafts in Tondabayashi dates
back to around 1700, when samurai warriors made baskets and other items and
passed them on to the villagers, but this is not certain. The origin of bamboo
blinds is said to be around 1877, when Otokichi Sugita of Shindo, Tondabayashi
City (the founder of Sugita Bamboo Blind Company) went to the Fushimi area of
Kyoto to apprentice himself in the techniques of Kyoto bamboo blinds, and started
the business after returning to his hometown. It is also said that he hired
craftsmen from Fushimi to start the business. In other words, Tondabayashi’s
bamboo blinds are based on bamboo craftsmanship, mainly baskets, and
incorporate the manufacturing process of Kyoto blinds.

In Kawachinagano, on the other hand,
toothpick production, which is completely different from bamboo baskets and
bamboo blinds, was originally a thriving industry. Many of the bamboo blinds
were converted from the toothpick manufacturing process, which involved
removing the toothpicks from the raw wood, to the bamboo blinds.

In Tondabayashi, split bamboo blinds made
from split bamboo, the material used to make bamboo baskets, formed a small
group of companies that mainly worked by hand, while in the Kawachinagano area,
the higo bamboo blinds were created from higo, the material used to make
toothpicks, and from the beginning, the area was equipped with higo-pulling
machines, which made it a somewhat more entrepreneurial industry. The Osaka
bamboo blind was produced in Tondabayashi from the late Taisho period to the
early Showa period, and the higo bamboo blind in Kawachinagano was born at the
end of the Meiji period, and both are believed to have formed a group in the
early Showa period.

Manufacturing Methods and Processes

1. Harvesting of madake

Cut down around October to the following
February when the moisture content is the lowest. The better quality bamboo is
used to make higher quality products.

2. Peeling

The surface of the cut bamboo has knots and
dirt, so the bark is shaved to prepare it.

3. Bamboo Splitting

Bamboo is split to make the base of the
bamboo hinges. Round bamboos are roughly split and then further split into
smaller pieces.

4. Making the bamboo strips

Split bamboo is divided into two parts, the
skin side and the body, and put through a cutter.

5. Glazing and coloring

The finished bamboo strips are put through
a glazing machine and dyed yellow for bamboo blinds used at shrines and

6. Weaving

The bamboo strips are then placed on a loom
and woven into bamboo blinds or tatami blinds. Various techniques are used to
align the bamboo joints.

7. Sewing the edges

Both ends of the woven blind are trimmed
and the edges are sewn by hand.

8. Finishing

Decorative elements such as metal fittings
and tassels are attached to complete the product. The grade of the finished
product varies depending on these ornaments.

Japanese bomboo blind for interior
Source: Osaka Traditional Crafts Industry Promotion Council

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