Did you know that you need a pair of very strong hands to weave a large heavy-duty bamboo basket? Until I visited master bamboo basket weaver Takami Yasuhiro last year, I didn’t know how tough each of his bamboo splints were. As the basket gets bigger and taller, it is almost impossible to even bend one of these splints with my amateur hands.
It is said that it takes at least three years of training just to learn to manually split bamboo into splints to make a basket. The first basket that Takami-san completed under the apprenticeship of Miyazaki Shutaro was thrown into the fireplace by his master because it was not good enough. Takami-san laughs that such a strict and harsh way of teaching is now out of style and younger people in Japan these days will not tolerate it. But he is very proud that he learned under his strict master and would not have chosen to learn any other way.
Hands, nails and teeth are all vital tools for bamboo basket weaving. Each splint is split into even width and thickness and finally peeled into two layers so that they are more flexible and durable. And they are the building blocks of Takami-san’s heavy-duty and beautiful baskets.