The most remarkable aspect of Takami Yasuhiro’s baskets is the stunning beauty of every bamboo splint woven into them. Their evenness and glow create lines that are refreshing to the eye, and give his work a unique air of grace.
I met Takami-san in May 2012 at a special exhibit of crafts in a Tokyo department store. It was sheer luck to be able to meet this soft-spoken artist in Tokyo, because he is usually based in Yufuin city, Oita prefecture, in the southern island of Kyushu. He has been using bamboo to make a wide range of items from small trays to large ceiling installations for over 30 years.
When I saw his work, I was enamored by the contemporary look of his baskets that cleverly featured bamboo segments. Usually the segment part of the bamboo is trimmed off because it makes it more difficult for the artist to weave the splint. I loved that Takami-san uses the segment in his work because this, in my view, is the most iconic and beautiful part of bamboo.
Takami-san manually splits every bamboo splint (called Higo in Japanese) using traditional tools and methods. It is hard to imagine the amount of patience required in splitting and matching the width of the splints. Being adept at splitting bamboo is the most important skill for a basket weaver, because the beauty of each splint determines the appeal of the end product. It is said that this skill alone takes three hard years to master.
When asked why he chose to become a bamboo basket weaver, Takami-san simply said that “I wanted to become a person that absorbed all aspects of bamboo”. What I think he meant by this statement is that he deeply cherishes the qualities that makes bamboo special and has striven to emulate these attributes in his work: the importance of endurance, flexibility, strength, and continuing maturity.
Takami-san seems to have successfully achieved his long-sought goal after spending three decades in mastering this highly demanding craft. He passes on this gift to us in his spectacular work.