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Inspection Report Beppu From a Different Angle: A tour of bamboo crafts and arts

Hi, I am Dawei from UNA Labs. I am glad to have joined the “Beppu Project” monitor tour November 4th and 5th, 2023. Hot springs are usually the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Beppu. Nevertheless, Beppu is also a home that full of under known arts and crafts. I never would have had the opportunity to see those master craftsmen’s creations if it weren’t for the “Beppu Project.”


The Uniqueness of Beppu

On the tour, we discovered the diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique traditions of Kyushu, the southwestern island of Japan. Beppu, a city well-known for its geothermal amazes and steeped in the tradition of bamboo handicrafts, is home to numerous arts and crafts. During the tour, we visited Beppu’s verdant bamboo groves and artisan workshops, seeing the skill and artistry that has been handed down through the ages.

The Bamboo Forest next to the Harmony land


The Bamboo Haven of Beppu

Bamboo’s resilience, adaptability, and grace are highly valued in Japanese culture. In Beppu, bamboo is not just a plant—it’s a way of life. Generations of artisans have refined the intricate art of bamboo weaving, using it to craft everything from sophisticated baskets and tea utensils to sturdy furniture and magnificent architectural creations.

Clean hand cuts bamboo


Meeting the Craftsman

We traveled to the master craftsmen’s workshops in Beppu, where we had the opportunity to see firsthand the enchantment of bamboo handicrafts. Here, skilled craftspeople with decades of combined experience skillfully handled their tools turning raw bamboo into incredibly beautiful and useful objects. We gazed in wonder as they meticulously chose every bamboo stalk, evaluating its dimensions, form, and pliability with the astute eye of an expert. They split the bamboo into thin strips with patience and accuracy, then skillfully wove the strips together to create elaborate patterns and designs.

Bamboo craftsman and artist, Mikiko Sato from Cotake

Bamboo craftsman and artist, Chikara Kojima


The Artistry of Bamboo Weaving

Bamboo weaving, called “takeami” in Japanese, is a centuries-old craft that calls for both artistic vision and technical proficiency. We get a deeper understanding of the craft’s complexity as we watched the artisans at work. Every piece conveyed a tale and showcased the distinct aesthetic and character of its maker. From the intricate geometry of a bamboo screen to the straightforward elegance of a woven basket, each artisan’s skill and imagination could be seen.

Demonstration from craftsman Kenichi Otani

Tools from Kenichi Otani


Hands-On Experience (crafting a bamboo accessory)

No visit to Beppu would be complete without trying our hand at bamboo weaving. Under the guidance of patient instructors, we learned the basic techniques of bamboo craft, from splitting and bending the bamboo to weaving it into intricate patterns.

Bamboo weaving with Kenichi Otani


Exploring Beppu’s Bamboo Culture

Beppu celebrates its rich bamboo culture through a variety of experiences that go beyond workshops. When we visited the Beppu Bamboo Craft Center and Museum, OPAM, we were astounded by the exquisite sculptures and antiques made of bamboo that dated back centuries.

We also toured a bamboo crafts store, which sold variety of bamboo goods, such as traditional household items and handcrafted trinkets. Here we saw firsthand the lasting legacy of bamboo handcrafts in modern Japanese culture, amidst the vivid colors and lively chatter of the marketplace.

Craft piece in OPAM

Modern crafts from Space Beppu


A Culinary Adventure

Savoring the regional cuisine, which honors the area’s natural bounty, is another must-do on any trip to Beppu. Beppu’s Jigoku Mushi (hell-steamed) cuisine is a singular and unforgettable experience, combining traditional cooking techniques with the area’s natural geothermal wonders to create a mouthwatering blend of flavors. We got to enjoy a large assortment of food made natural steam. Everything was carefully chosen to enhance the flavors, from the vegetables to the seafood. We used bamboo steamers over the hot spring vents to produce dishes that were flavorful, tender, and perfectly embodied Beppu’s culinary legacy.

Perparing Jikoku Mushi

Steamed Jikoku Mushi


Reflections of the Journey

We were incredibly touched by the beauty and craftsmanship seen throughout Beppu during the tour. From the trip, we discovered a rich cultural heritage and a deep connection to the natural world and past generations in the form of bamboo handcrafts.