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Our first feature story introduces handmade bamboo baskets by a young craftsman named Hiromi Kiriyama. He makes each basket by himself from start to finish-from choosing his bamboo in the forest to the last finishing touch. The baskets are made out of fresh, young, green madake bamboo, whose beauty will continue to be enhanced through time and use, as the luster deepens to a dark caramel color as you use them.

Kiriyama House surrounded by bamboo forests and rice fields
Madake bamboo grows straight up toward the sky
Cutting a big bamboo at its bottom. The best cutting time is from late fall to early winter.

Bamboo baskets with cookies drawn by Sora

The Basketry of Hiromi Kiriyama

The beauty of Hiromi Kiriyama' basketry is born from the functional form of the basket. Things that are made ignoring utility aspectoften do not posses the same kind of beauty...it is a beauty that transcends individuality. The craftsman forgets about himself and lets his work speak for itself. - Yanagi Soetsu, The Unknown Craftsman centuries ago, the fishermen and farmers of Japan devised the unique shapes of the bamboo baskets out of a material they had in abundance—madake bamboo—to perform the tasks of everyday life. Hiromi Kiriyama believes in the importance of respecting not only the unique character of the material he uses, but also the beauty of the traditional shapes of these working baskets. Hiromi is determined to carry on the craft of weaving functional shapes—fish baskets, rice baskets, and sieves—and to show us that there is still an important place for them in our modern daily lives.


One Craftsman’s Life: Hiromi Kiriyama

Although the craft of weaving baskets was once handed down from generation to generation in Japan, there are very few craftsmen left who carry on the weaving of the traditional baskets of Kyushu. Hiromi Kiriyama was not born into a traditional basket weaver’s household, though his home and workshop now sit on a gently sloping hillside surrounding by rice fields in Oita prefecture on the Island of Kyushu. He was born in the west part of Nara City, near Horyuji Temple which is the oldest wooden building in the world, and his life seemed destined to end up behind a desk, until he saw his first hand-woven basket at an exhibition. Struck by its quiet beauty, his urge to weave baskets with his own hands grew from there. In 1990, he left his career behind to pursue a life in basket making and revive this disappearing craft. Kiriyama makes each basket from start to finish---cutting down the towering bamboo in the forest with his own hands, carrying the long, heavy poles back to his work place, and splitting and stripping the bamboo piece by piece into thin ribbons for weaving. This largely self-taught craftsman has been awarded the Medal of Excellence at the Japan Folk Crafts Exhibition, and the Japan Folk Crafts Association Prize at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum Exhibition. His work has been praised in Japan for the exquisite shapes he is able to achieve and for refinement of his techniques. Everyday, he and his wife Yoshiko, his seven-year-old son, Sora (meaning “sky”), and four-year-old daughter, Oto (meaning “sound of water”) enjoy feasts from the field—rice and fresh vegetables which they grow themselves. His bamboo basket creations seem to reflect the healthy, carefree spirit of his lifestyle, blessed with abundant gifts from nature. Having one of his baskets nearby fills the heart with a little bit of the happiness of their simple country life. May they bring inspiration to your daily life.




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