Timeless Beppu Bamboo Crafts

Beppu is a city in Ōita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. It is strategically nestled between the sea and mountains making it a popular spot for its hot springs, or onsen.

Beppu has eight geothermal hot spots (Earth’s internal heat), also known as “eight hells of Beppu”.  Beppu is not only known for their amazing hot springs, but for their bamboo crafts as well.

Beppu hot springs. | かがみ~

The Nihon-shoki (the oldest chronicles of Japan) tell us that  during the twelfth Emperor of Japan’s reign, Emperor Keiko, his private chef discovered slender bamboo ideal for basket making at Beppu while on a visit. During the Muromachi Period, a type of basket was produced in Beppu for vendors on foot, to hold their wares.

The Edo Period (1603-1867), saw in influx of visitors to Beppu from all over the country. They frequented the city to  stay at the popular hot springs to relax and enjoy the many healing benefits of the natural waters rich with minerals.  These visitors needed  bamboo mesh baskets for preparing food as well as for storing their rice which the local craftsmen made. The simple craft that was derived from necessity soon became a local craft industry.

Sagano Bamboo Forest. | Alex Chen

The bamboo used for Beppu handicrafts is mandake bamboo that principally grows in Ōita. This type of bamboo is perfect for basket making. Other varieties of bamboo such as gomadake, henon and black bamboo are also used.

There are eight fundamental techniques used in the creation of the vast range of bamboo goods from Beppu. The bamboo craft of Beppu remains to be a popular souvenir and an important local craft up until today.

Japanese bamboo baskets. |cava_cavien