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The History of Beppu Bamboo Crafts

According to Nihon-shoki (the oldest chronicles of Japan), Beppu bamboo crafts originated when the twelfth Emperor Keiko's private chef found slender bamboo, ideal for basket making, when he was visiting Beppu.

During the Muromachi period, a type of basket was produced for strolling vendors to hold their wares, and new bamboo products were introduced to the market.

The Edo period saw an increase of visitors to the Beppu hot springs from all over Japan. These visitors needed baskets for storing rice and mesh baskets for cooking it which the local craftsmen produced in large quantities. Bamboo products were also popular souvenirs, also helping, establish Beppu bamboo craft products as an important local industry.

Rice storage container

Beppu bamboo crafts eventually rose to very high technological levels in the Meiji period. The Beppu Technical Apprentice School (the predecessor of Oita Technical High School) was established by Beppu and Hamawaki towns in 1902. Many bamboo artisans came to this school from all across Japan. Today's manufacturing technology was built on this foundation.

In 1938, the Oita Bamboo Technical Training Support Center was established. This is the only publicly funded prefectural- level institution in Japan that dedicates its study to bamboo crafts. It has produced many highly successful artisans.

The locally funded Beppu City Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center was later established in 1950 to further advance the technical progress of local crafts.

The bamboo crafts at all levels were thriving until the introduction of inexpensive plastics in the 1950's when plastic beat out bamboo as a material for everyday utilitarian products. This development, however, had an upside. It forced more focus and effort on producing high-end bamboo objects which shifted their role of satisfying daily necessities to one of showcasing the highest level of craftsmanship in the world.

Basket

Basket makers had to focus more time on making luxury pieces causing the level of skill and artistry to rise accordingly. Many artists gained national recognition in the 1950's and 60's (and still do to this day). In 1967, Mr. Shono Shounsai, originally from Beppu, became the first bamboo artist to be elevated to a Living National Treasure.

In 1979, the bamboo crafts of Beppu received a government designation as Traditional Arts and Crafts by the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry in Japan. We feel it is our duty to protect, develop and continue our traditional bamboo craft skills.

©Beppu City Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center 8-3 Higashisoen Beppu City 874-0836 Japan    phone:0977-23-1072