I was born in Kamitsue, a mountain village of Western Oita. I loved drawing and was very crafty, so a good friend of my aunt who was a village doctor from Oita suggested I go study bamboo craft under Mr. Iwao Kounsai. I went to Oita at the age of seventeen, and spent ten years apprenticed to him. I planned initially to become independent in three or four years, but I changed my mind when I became ill for ten months. I decided to learn from both Kounsai and his son Honan as much as possible.
With the process of bamboo art, it is the preparation of splitting and stripping that is so difficult. Weaving and plaiting alone won’t make a person a “bamboo artist.” Resilience and the beauty of the plaited surface is what I consider the uniqueness of bamboo art.
I feel a part of my brain is constantly thinking about the next work no matter what I am doing. When I get an idea, I draw rough sketches on the back of a calendar and later draw a more detailed plan. I have become quite good at this.
I have tried to express the natural beauty of Japan through bamboo, and I would like to continue doing so. You won’t become rich by being a bamboo artist, but I am happy to see my work give joy to my clients, and my work speaks to who I am as a person.
One of the duties of being a traditional craft artist in Japan is to train one’s successor. Considering, I am lucky for this. I have a few talented individuals whom I have trained step-by-step from beginner to more advanced levels.
Many imports are flooding into the market, and it is not easy to sustain the level of quality. In order to carry on the tradition, we also need to educate consumers that it saves more to buy good quality.
Anyone who is crafty can weave and plait bamboo baskets, but you must have an impressionable heart. If you are type of person who does not think of anything to see a little flower by the street, for example, you should forget about becoming either artisan or artist. When I see many baskets which are no more than a copy of someone else’s work in the exhibitions, I get very disappointed and hurt.