Photographs by Shinohara Hiroaki, unless otherwise noted.
Japanese bamboo works—a craft admired by art collectors around the world
Japanese traditional craft arts are attracting a lot of attention overseas among art enthusiasts, especially the delicate beauty and warmth of Japanese bamboo arts. These woven works appear delicate yet contain incredible tensile strength, and have been praised around the world as modern and beautiful. Their sleek, architectural designs belie the careful handiwork of generations of artisans, while their natural look imparts a feeling of freshness. Won’t you try incorporating one of these beautiful works into your home or art collection? Today we would like to introduce several masterpieces handcrafted by Japan’s possibly greatest basket maker in the 20th century.
Who is Iizuka Rōkansai? (And why you should know his name!)
Among Japan’s greatest bamboo craftsmen, perhaps one of the most influential and often sought after by foreign collectors is Iizuka Rōkansai. Until Rōkansai’s day in the first half of the 20th century, bamboo flower baskets used in Japanese tea ceremony were considered merely as wares. However, by enhancing the natural form of bamboo to fashion beautiful and innovative pieces, Rōkansai inspired awe in viewers and elevated bamboo works from their lowly status among Japanese craft arts to that of an equally respectable craft.
A basket named “Kunika” by Iizuka Rōkansai. Photographed by Morikawa Noboru.
“Originally, Rōkansai aspired to be a painter. He seemed well acquainted with the arts in general and painted with watercolors. The quality of beauty he aimed for was remarkably high,” notes bamboo art collector Saitō Masamitsu, whose collection includes a number of Rōkansai’s artworks. The items created by Rōkansai that we introduce below belong to Saitō, but are available for purchase to go to new homes. The photographs below were taken at Saitō’s home in the countryside. From these images, you can see how bamboo crafts can be easily incorporated into any home, and revitalize the space with their energetic forms.
The overwhelming beauty of woven forms
The collector points out that, “The charm of Rōkansai’s flower baskets lie in that they can stand on their own as figurative art without needing flower arrangements to make them appealing. Of course though, adding flowers does make a piece even more glorious. Rōkansai effectively brings out bamboo’s supple and fresh image, along with the natural forms of the material’s knots, to produce visionary forms. Because of this, his works can stand as figurative art even in museums. By using only natural bamboo materials, the artworks impart a peaceful and wholesome quality. Perhaps it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say this, but I believe that these craft arts do enrich one’s life with their simple elegance.”
Bamboo baskets by famed Japanese artist, Iizuka Rōkansai, available for purchase
The supple and fresh beauty of Rōkansai’s bamboo goods enrich our day to day living
Flower basket named “Senjō” (One thousand rows) by Iizuka Rōkansai
Product number: 29706-001-01
6,800,000 yen + tax
36 cm high × 29.5 cm wide × 30 cm deep
Japanese timber bamboo (Phyllostachys bambsoides) and Sasa kurilensis bamboo. Original box and water container inside the basket are included, along with a certificate of authenticity from Akariya Antiques. Produced in Japan. Number available: 1
This basket stands as testament to Rōkansai’s masterful skills that have earned him praise around the world. “Though this piece may appear to have been crafted with ease to the untrained eye, other basket weavers take one look and despair over how difficult and demanding this project must have been,” explains Saitō.
(Left) Decoration and function come together in this design. The corners feature beautiful open weaving to fasten the basket together and make it stronger. (Right) Thin strips of Sasa kurilensis bamboo are wrapped around the handle. While at first glance this covering appears to be roughly done, it actually features a highly detailed design. This careful and surprising addition represents Rōkansai’s aesthetic sense.
A simple flower arrangement suits this small lacquered basket
Flower basket named “Tsuru musubi” (Knotted vines)
Product number: 29706-001-02
1,800,000 yen + tax
25 cm high × 22.3 cm wide × 21 cm deep
Fernleaf hedge bamboo (Abies firma). Original box and water container inside the basket are included, along with a certificate of authenticity from Akariya Antiques. Produced in Japan. Number available: 1
A lovely joint work basket
While this basket displays a small and cute shape, the shine of its lacquer coating produces a refined appearance. The mesmerizing hexagonal mesh pattern in the woven bamboo and the knot in the basket’s handle merits both attention and respect for its difficulty. Iizuka Rōkansai signed the base of the basket using his later art name.
Flowering branches and other long-stemmed plants pair nicely with this basket’s dynamic form
Flower basket named “Shirasabi hishime-ami” (Shirasabi bamboo with rhombus pattern weave)
Product number: 29706-001-03
2,400,000 yen + tax
69 cm high × 21 cm wide × 19.7 cm deep
Japanese timber bamboo (Phyllostachys bambsoides)
Fitted box and water container inside the basket are included, along with a certificate of authenticity from Akariya Antiques. Produced in Japan.
Number available: 1
This famous work captures the architectural beauty of timber bamboo
The artist’s extraordinary skill and sensitivity in manipulating the bamboo can be appreciated by anyone. Thin strips of bamboo have been woven together in a dynamic pattern from the base of the basket and moving up the rim, revealing the Rōkansai’s admirable sense.
Even a single blossom can shine when placed within one of Rōkansai’s baskets
Flower basket named “Shirasabi mutsume-ami” (White rust colored basket with hexagonal weave)
Product number: 29706-001-04
1,800,000 yen + tax
27 cm high × 34.5 cm wide × 37 cm deep
Japanese timber bamboo (Phyllostachys bambsoides) and Sasa kurilensis bamboo. Fitted box and and water container inside the basket are included, along with a certificate of authenticity from Akariya Antiques. Produced in Japan. Number available: 1
Enchanted by the graceful curves only made possible with bamboo
The youthful impression of bamboo strips paired with its incredible strength produces a beauty unlike any other. Arranging flowers within the architectural works only amplifies its presence by contrasting with its geometric form. This basket in particular is a well-known piece from the artist’s later years.
For any inquiries or questions regarding these items, please feel free to contact us by e-mail at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated and adapted by Jennifer Myers.