Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [BAMBOO WARE] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS

Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [BAMBOO WARE]

Something that adds a touch of luxury to the everyday, that carries the air of Japan about it. A thing that beckons you to use it. Shopkeeper KASHIYUKA set out across Japan to find such handiworks. Her second purchasing quest took her to Oita – the capital of Japan's bamboo trade. There she visited with master of the form, Mr. Koji Nakaiwa.

In the studio of Mr. Koji Nakaiwa, a craftsman making bags and baskets in the traditional wicker style known as Ajiro-ami. Drawn to the delicacy of a bamboo basket, KASHIYUKA cautiously asks, “may I touch it”. On inspecting the edges and interior finish she observes with amazement, “how sturdy it is!” Top, ¥19,000, pants ¥24,000 (RBS/BEAMS Women – Shibuya TEL (Japan) +81 3 3780 5501)
Welcome, I’m your shopkeeper, KASHIYUKA. Lately my attention has turned to things that can be put to long use. While I adore things that are fashionable in the moment, I find the idea of searching far and wide for handcrafts that can serve a lifetime greatly appealing.
Purchase No. 2 [BAMBOO WARE] Strength and supple beauty. Love at first sight for a wicker bag.
This time around I’m visiting the workshop of Oita prefecture’s crafter of bamboo, Mr. Koji Nakaiwa, who handweaves just such bags. It takes more than a month to make a masuajiro-ami wicker bag, but only an instant for its beauty to steal your heart! Its intricacy makes it hard to believe that it was produced by human hands. Yet hold it, and its heft and suppleness convey the warmth of those hands that shaped it. Ajiro ami is a technique by which finely trimmed bamboo strips, called “higo” are very tightly meshed at right angles. By shifting the points at which these “higo” intersect, and combining and skipping certain intersections, various patterns emerge.

For this visit, Mr. Nakaiwa, who claims that “the inherent beauty of bamboo ware lives in the quality of the ‘higo’ you make”, showed me what goes into the process. Using bamboo timber, he hacks down the members, strips them, planes several millimeters from the strip surfaces to make them smaller and uniform, rounds the edges, and smooths the surfaces again. All of which is quickly explained, but in actuality takes quite a long time, and involves different tools at every step. The completed higo patterns are paper thin, just 0.2 millimeters deep, fluid and flexible.
Weaving starts from the base. This section is about 10 centimeters square.