There are dozens of traditional Japanese crafts adored around the world, from porcelain to lacquerware, wood and bamboo work, washi paper, dolls, and more. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the lesser-known art of “Suruga Bamboo Ware” (Suruga Takesensuji Zaiku), which was originally developed to hold precious insects. This form of craftsmanship utilizes the simplicity and flexibility of bamboo to create refined, elegant pieces able to be used in everyday life.

To learn more about the craft, we visited the traditional handcrafts art center, “Sumpu Takumishuku,” in Shizuoka City, which is one of Japan’s largest traditional craft centers. Here, we tried our hand at making Suruga Bamboo Ware, discovering its beauty and usefulness along the way. We could even take our pieces home straight away, making for fantastic, one-of-a-kind Shizuoka souvenirs! Lovers of traditional Japanese crafts, read on!

Suruga Bamboo Ware: A stunning intersection of straight and curved lines

Shigeyasu Sugiyama, a craftsman at Sumpu Takumishuku, working on his pieces.

In Japan, bamboo crafting is often associated with the flat strip woven works made in Kyoto and Beppu. However, according to Shigeyasu Sugiyama, a craftsman at Sumpu Takumishuku, Suruga Bamboo Ware, which is made solely in Shizuoka, is totally different from any other style and instead uses round strips of bamboo.

Sugiyama is the third son of Shizuoka’s famous “Miyabi Andon” workshop, where he works with his brothers to continue the family business. He’s a friendly, funny man worlds apart from the stereotypical craftsman image, and was a pleasure to work with!

The jovial Sugiyama explains the origins of Suruga Bamboo Ware as we listen carefully.

While most bamboo ware started as everyday essential items like baskets, Suruga Bamboo Ware was instead made to cage “suzumushi” bell crickets starting in the early Edo Period.

The history of bamboo craftsmanship in Shizuoka Prefecture is also tied to the retirement of Tokugawa Ieyasu from the shogunate and his return to Sumpu (modern-day Shizuoka Prefecture).

As Ieyasu enjoyed falconry, the area near Sumpu Castle attracted many animal trainers and basket-makers for cages, and the neighborhood was eventually named “Takajo,” meaning “falconer,” to which it is still called today.

Plus, the warm climate of central Shizuoka Prefecture is ideal for producing vast quantities of high-quality bamboo, and craftspeople were able to acquire raw materials locally with ease.

Passed down since the Edo Period, Suruga Bamboo Ware uses “maruhigo” rounded shaved off bamboo strips to protect the antennas of suzumushi and bird wings from injury.

To achieve this, special bending and coupling techniques a…

See More >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *