Friday, June 25, 2010

熊本の旅

ホテルの窓から展望した熊本市

数ヶ月ぶりのポスト。前回は修了作品展について書いていたから、もう3ヶ月経っているのか。卒業式が終わったら体が不調になり、しかも翻訳の仕事も忙しくなって、竹を割ることが少なくなった。実をいうと、少なくなり過ぎた。

ところが、最近、体重もやっと増えだしてきて、今は翻訳の仕事と引越しの準備をする合間に竹の活動も徐々にやりだしている。2週間前は近所の石城小学校の学生5人と一緒に竹山に行って、竹を割る実演をした。小学生は何に対しても興味を見せてくれるので、結構楽しいイベントだった。(写真は先生からの送付を待っている状態。)


そして、先週はケイトリンと二人で、竹割包丁を探しに熊本県へ行ってきた。熊本に行く前に、訓練支援センターの先生達が熊本の鍛冶屋についての案内をして下さり、あと、野木村先生の所有する熊本県産の包丁を自分の手に持って重さなどを確かめさせてくれたので、出発する前から既にその行く先が決まっていた。まずは熊本県伝統工芸館に寄って、そこで販売している刃物がどのくらいの種類で出しているのかを確認してから、そこから南の宇土へ。宇土には小山博行という、刃物作りを63年間も続けている鍛冶屋さんがいる。電話してあったので、気持ちよく迎えてくれた。店に入ったら一箱一杯の竹割包丁を出してくれた。持ってみたら評判通り、バランスが非常によく、見た目より軽くて、しかも鋼の光沢というか、光り具合がきれいだった。一番の弱点は値段が一本15,000~50,000円以上と、少し高めだった。僕の手に一番よくなじんだなと感じたものの中から、小さくて可愛いのを一本、荒割りなどに使えるちょっと長めのを一本、合計2本買っちゃった。オマケとして天然の中砥石もくれたので、ちょっと浮き浮きした気分でまた車に乗って走り出した。

こちらは博行さんの兄弟の一人。5人いらっしゃるそうです。

次の目的地は川尻という町。林昭三さんという鍛冶屋さんの店に入り、幅取り小刀を1対買った。そうしている間に、ケイトリンは向こう側の松本刃物という店で、なんと6本(!)ものキッチンナイフを買った。ケイトリンはおそらく生まれる前から買い物していたと思うけど、僕が比較的に得意とする刃物に関してもケイトリンが勝つとは、思っても見なかった。

ちなみに、来週の火曜日(29日)にケイトリンの職場、大分南高等学校で「竹工芸の魅力」と題した講演をする予定。講演後の実演に小山さんの竹割包丁を使うのが楽しみ。

Monday, March 22, 2010

修了作品展の写真 Photos from the Graduating Exhibition

芸訓練支援センター竹工芸科の、平成21年度修了作品展。おかげさまで、基本課題作品は全部売りきれ、会場はたくさんの観客で賑わいました。友達や久々に会っていなかった知り合いも、初対面の方もたくさん観に来てくれ、私たちのこの1年間の活動について熱く語る機会に恵まれてとても嬉しかったです。修了生の中にはお客さんから注文を受けた人もいましたし、対話やアンケートでたくさんの貴重な意見をいただきましたので、別府ではなく大分で開催した甲斐も感じられました。 これからは、学校でではなく、社会(世界)に出て竹製品産業に関わる活動をみんな自分なりの形で続けていきますので、今後ともご愛顧、ご支援のほどよろしくお願いします!

Here are a few photos from the 2009-10 Graduating Exhibition of the Oita Prefectural Bamboo Crafts and Training Support Center. It was great to see friends and old acquaintances at the exhibition and have the chance to talk to them about our year-long work. Some of my fellow students received special orders for baskets, and we all received a lot of valuable input from bamboo craft fans about their individual design preferences. This year the show was held in Oita's Tokiwa Wasada Town rather than Beppu Tokiwa, as was done in previous years, a decision that turned out really well. With the school year finished, now students will go their separate ways, some working for local companies, some working independently, some studying other styles of bamboo crafts in other parts of Japan, and a few will continue studying at the school in 2nd year program. I owe a great deal of thanks to everyone who came to the show for their patronage and support, past and future.

静まり返ったまだ薄暗い開店直前の会場。基本課題作群は竹製品ファンの殺到を待ち構えている。
The basic assignments, neatly stacked or lined up on tables, await the store's opening. When the doors opened at 10, a flood of customers, some running, rushed to grab their 3-items-per-person maximum.

実演コーナーでは、内原さんが「四海波」(しかいなみ)の製作工程をひご取りから最後のひごの指し込みまで披露してくれた。
At the demonstartion corner, Mr. Uchihara shows the entire process of making the Shikainami (四海波) basket, from splitting the bamboo to tucking in the last strip.

基本課題作について解説してくれた石田さんと観客。右手前の、昔「豆腐かご」と呼ばれていた今の「ランチボックス」が一番人気が多く、アッという間に売れてしまった。
Mr. Ishida (yellow jacket) talking with customers about the basic assignments. The lunchbox (called "tofu basket" long ago, named for its primary function), was the most popular, selling out within minutes after opening.

(上、下)応用課題作。網代編み、よろい編み、亀甲編み、束ね編み、輪弧編み、花六つ目編み、縄目編み、などなど、実に多様多彩な作品が飾られた。応用というだけのことあって、それぞれの製作するに当っての難しさが違う。4~6週間かけて丁寧に作られた応用課題作は2万弱~3万円、学生にとっては現実的でない、お客さんにとっては非常に嬉しい価格で販売。本当の相場が10万円以上のものが多い。学生に限って可能な価格なので、1年間学校で身につけてきた技術をどんな風に生かして生活しいくのか、つまり、良質な竹製品をどのようにして作れば現実的な価格で販売できるのかが、これからの大きな課題なのだ。

(above and below) These are some of the special assignments, called oyo kadai (応用課題) in Japanese, literally meaning "applied problem." Skills learned throughout the year in the basic assignments were "applied" to make a new and different, more complex basket. Each student took 4-6 weeks to make his/her own work, with a total of 18 unique products being exhibited. Each type of new weave, or variation on a weave we had already learned, challenged us in new ways. Special assignments were sold at prices between 18,000 and 30,000 yen (about 200-300 US dollars)--a steal considering the market prices for items like these are well over 100,000 yen (1000 dollars) a piece. Considering how long it took to make them, however, the real problem we students face after graduation is how to make high-quality bamboo products likes these at a much quicker pace.
私が製作し、提出した応用課題作品:市松編み小物入れ。厚み0.3ミリのひごを2本寄せて、1すくい1押さえの四つ目編みで編組し、芯巻きの当て縁で仕上げた。角の保護処理のために籐かがりが巻いてある。このかごについては、ポストを改めてアップするつもり。
This is the basket I made and submitted. I'll show more images of this basket and explain the process of making it in another post.
お孫さんのお気に入りということで、私の作品を買ってくださった藤塚さん。ご自宅の玄関で大事に花を飾っているらしい。
Mrs. Fujistuka and her two grandchildren who bought my basket. I was told recently that she is using it as a flower basket in the foyer of her house.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

(*変更)修了作品展のお知らせ Announcement: Graduating Works Exhibition

大分県竹工芸訓練支援センターの訓練生の修了作品展がいよいよ開催されますので、お知らせします。

会期:2月27日~28日(土、日)
会場:「トキワわさだタウン」1階 中央通り、〒870-1198 大分市大字玉沢

2月27日(土):10~20時  
2月28日(日):10~17時

基本課題作(菊底バスケット、炭斗籠)
両日午前10時から即売します。

応用課題作(訓練生一人一人が真心と個性を込めて作った竹製品)
27日(土)午前11時から予約販売(展示修了後お渡しする形での販売)
*購入希望者多数の場合は、抽選とします。

竹の割り剥ぎも実演します。是非お越しください。



着々と出来上がりつつある応用課題作たち。
Special assignments in mid-production.

Trainees of the Oita Prefectural Bamboo Craft and Training Support Center will soon be holding their graduating exhibition. If you're in the Oita city area, please stop by to check out or buy our baskets. Details are as follows:

Date and Time: February 27 - 28
Place: Tokiwa Wasada Town, main hallway on the first floor

Feb. 27, 10AM - 8PM
Feb. 28, 10AM - 5PM

Basic assignments (Kikuzoko basket and Sumitori kago) will be sold starting at 10 AM on both days.

Special assignments (18 unique bamboo products made by the trainees) will be displayed during the entire two days. Special assignments will be sold by reservation at 11AM on Saturday, and will be handed over to buyers at the end of the exhibition on Sunday. A lottery will be held when more than one buyer per basket is present.

We'll also have bamboo splitting demonstrations. Hope you can come!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

竹を伐りに行ってきた My First Bamboo Cutting Experience

1月の中旬のころ、直入町に住んでいる御沓さんのところに竹を伐りに行った話しをポストにアップして、映像も載せたのを皆さんは見ていると思うけど、今回はそれについてもっと詳しいことを書きたいと思う。(映像はこのポストの一番下の方に残した。)

In mid-January I put up a quick post and video about my experiences of cutting bamboo in the town of Naoiri to be used in my baskets. I'll go into a little more detail about that project in this post. (Scroll to the bottom to see the video.)

御沓さんという方は私の友達、飯田さんを経て知り合った方で、ずっと前から私が参加してきた稲刈りとか芋掘りの農業体験事業を企画・運営している方だ。行くたびに仲が親しくなっている感じがするが、今回は御沓さんの実家の裏山にある竹を伐りに行った。御沓さんの実家では野菜とか牛などいろいろな農産物を作っている。その中のひとつである椎茸の栽培面積を御沓さんは来年から伸ばしたいと考えているんだけど、杉の木の間に盛んに生えていて、邪魔になっているのが竹なのだ。御沓さんが「使ってくれんか」と言ってくれたのか、私の方から「使いたいんですけど」とお願いしたのか、よく覚えていないけど、邪魔になっているものが無駄なく使われることになるという出発点から、すごく気持ちのいい協力関係ができた。

Caitlyn and I went with our friends, the Iida family, to visit Mr. Mikutsu on his farm in Naoiri, located in southern Oita prefecture. We've visited Naoiri before to harvest rice or dig up sweet potatoes as part of the local agricultural events planned by Mr. Mikutsu, but this time we went to cut down the bamboo growing in Mr. Mikutsu's own backyard. On the Mikutsu farm they raise beef cattle and grow vegetables and the like. Immediately behind their house is a mountain slope covered by tall cedar trees, under which they maintain their shiitake mushroom stands. Mr. Mikutsu hopes to expand the area of these stands next year, but growing tall and green in the large spaces between the cedar is bamboo. Mikutsu-san said I could use the bamboo if I like, since he would cut it down and pile it up to rot anyway, so we all decided to get together to cut it down and prepare it for temporary storage. It's a mutual cooperation like this that I imagine was so much more common in the olden days of Japan when farming was a major way of life. (Bamboo being seen by farmers or foresters as a nuisance in Japan, by the way, seems to be the general trend as bamboo is used less and less for the production of daily goods or other commercial products. As far as I know, in Oita prefecture at least there are several town revitalization projects that focus on trying to find ways to make use of the bamboo groves that are either not maintained or cut down and thrown away.)

ところが、ただ単にそこら辺に生えている竹を使おうと思っても、実際ある竹の用途はその種類や成長状況、材料にするための下ごしらえなど、いろいろな要素の影響で決まってくるから、必ずしも御沓さんの竹を私が作っている籠に使えるとは限らないというのが最初は心配だっだ。まず、第一に知らないといけないことは、これは何の竹?結論から言えば、マダケかハチク、両方とも籠の材料となるヒゴに出来る種類だった。それをどうして確認できたかというと、節のところを見ればすぐ判る。伐採して籠に使う対象になっているのが左側の竹で、右にあるのはそのまた近くに生えていたモウソウチク。節の断面をよく観察すると、モウソウチクは竹皮部(ちくひぶ)という部分が一番出っ張っていて、そこからまた低くなって真っ直ぐになる。それに対してマダケとハチクは下側の竹皮部とその上にある節峰(せっぽう)が両方出っ張っていて、二重になっている。これはマダケなのか、ハチクなのか、そう簡単に見分けが付かないらしいんだけど、一応私達が伐った竹がモウソウチクではないことがわかって、一安心した。

I've used the word "bamboo" here so far without specifying type. There are over 600 varieties of bamboo in Japan, only a handful of which can be used to make baskets. At school we use only one variety, madake, otherwise known as giant timber bamboo, or, scientifically, Phyllostachys bambusoides, but hachiku (Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis) another timber bamboo almost exactly identical in appearance to madake is also usable. On the Mikutsu mountain I also found mosochiku, or Phyllostachys edulis, which is full of fiber and useful for some crafts, but is much coarser and less pliant than madake or hachiku. In Japan they're called the "big useful three (三大有用竹)," not only because they're the largest varieties, but also because they are naturally common and used so often in so many things. Luckily, the "nusiance" in this case was either hachiku or madake. You can tell the difference between these and moso by looking at the node. Moso (on the right) has one ring that sticks out, while madake or hachiku (on the left) has two rings. Supposedly it's practically impossible to pick out madake from hachiku just by looking at the two, so for now I'm satisfied with the observation that it's either one of them, both of which I can use.

さて、朝10時ぐらいの時に本番の作業に入った。御沓さんと飯田さんのご家族、皆の力を借りながら、竹を倒したり、倒された竹の枝を鋸で落としたりしていった。鋸のない人は枝のない竹を適当な場所に積んでくれた。飯田さんの2歳の息子さん、けいすけにまで竹の片っ端を持って手伝ってもらった。この作業で1時間半ぐらい経ってしまった。次は、ひどく年取った硬そうな竹とか、キズの多い竹を除いて、長さを切り揃えて、5,6本ずつ結束した。さあ、ここまで来たんだけど、次はどうしよう。本来だったら油抜きなどの処理をして天日干しするけど、油抜きをするための釜もないし、青いまま天日干ししたら竹の表面が変色してしまう。センターの課長からいただいたアドバイスは、直射日光の当らない、湿気のなるべく少ないところに保管するように言われた。そうすれば、カビや虫による害が発生しにくい。ちょうど牛小屋の軒下がこれにぴったりの環境だったので、一束にまとめられた竹を御沓さんが一人で、僕と飯田さんが二人で山から下ろしていった。その一日の中でこれこそが一番疲れた作業だった。とにかく重い。伐りたての青い竹は水分をたくさん含んでいるので、白い竹よりもずっと重い。何とか山から下ろせた竹は幅や年齢がばらばらの状態で軒下に収めてようやくその日の仕事が完了した。皆はほっとした気持ちで集合写真を撮ってから、おいしい料理と温泉のために近くの旅館へと向かった。


So we all got together, and got to work. Mikutsu-san cut down the canes with a chainsaw (not my choice of tools, but farmers sure do know efficiency!) as the rest of us (even grandma and grandpa!) busily cut off the branches with hand saws and piled the culms together. After about an hour and a half of doing this we were finished clearing the area. I then chose the best looking bamboo, mostly by clearing out those that looked too old, worn, or damaged, and then we cut them all to about the same length, bound them in bundles of 4 or 5, and carried them off the mountain.


Knowing basically what kind of bamboo it is, the next question on my mind was how to prepare it for my baskets. The madake bamboo we use at school is never fresh--it's always cured through boiling and then dried in the sun for around a week. Uncured bamboo supposedly gets a little stiffer than cured bamboo even after it's dried, according to one of the veteran instructors at school. As long as I don't use Mikutsu's bamboo for extremely thin strips it shouldn't have any affect on my baskets. He also recommended storing the bamboo in a dry location where it wouldn't see direct sunlight. We found a perfect place in the rafters of the cow barn, where they'll be stored at least until school ends and I have time to work on my own baskets.

After a long, tiring morning of cutting and carrying, we all took a group photo and then made our way to the local ryokan, where we had a delicious meal of kiln-cooked rice (kama-meshi; 釜飯) and fried chicken, and then a soothing dip in a hot spring bath.

年齢と直径がばらばらの竹。20本はあったんだろう。一人で使いきれるか、ちょっと不安。My friend Akira and I piling up the bamboo before storing it. Only later when I split the bamboo will I find out how old, and therefore workable, each one is.


(左上から時計周りに)飯田亮、僕、御沓さん、ケイトリン、御沓さんのご両親、飯田友美、飯田佳祐。
(Clockwise from top-left) Akira Iida, me, Mr. Mikutsu, Caitlyn, Mr. Mikutsu's parents, Tomomi Iida, and little Keisuke.




mikutsu farm, naoiri, oita from Stephen Jensen on Vimeo.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yomiuri Shimbun Article 読売新聞の記事

2009年12月7日の読売新聞(朝刊)、29面(大分のコーナー)。画像をクリックすると、拡大し読めるようになる。

Here's an article of me that appeared in the December 7th, 2009 morning edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun (Oita section, page 29), a national newspaper here in Japan. Click on the picture to get a larger image. English translation pending. Stay tuned!

Using a Bending Mold

I had a request recently to show bamboo being bent on a bending mold (what they call a himage-jigu, meaning "fire bending jig", here in Japan; 火曲げ治具)so here I'll go into a little more detail about how the bending mold is used to bend bamboo, and keep it that way. Once again, a picture of the mold we use at our school above. Shaped like a wedding cake, there are numerous tiers with different circumferences to bend the bamboo at tighter and tighter curves. Underneath this hollow wedding cake is a propane burner, which heats the jig from within. You can control the level of heat with the burner, but the jig is also made to release extraneous heat through an adjustable vent at the top.








Bending bamboo on the mold is both conceptually and technically a fairly simple procedure. At school there are specially made wooden wedges that fit in between the round central part and the arms that stick up. Wedges of varying thickness are on stock, but because most of the bamboo we bend at school is between 2-3 mm thick we almost always use the same wedges. You start by placing the end of the strip you are bending in between the central tier and the arm, and hammer in a wooden wedge between the strip and the arm, pressing the strip against the central tier and locking it in place. You bend the strip around the tier as far as the next arm, and hammer in another wedge (after the first wedge it's best to point the remaining wedges in the direction you are bending the strip, to keep the strip from floating away from the central tier, but my picture shows the opposite). You continue this at each arm until you get to the end of your strip. When bending strips to make rims, the strip will always double up on itself, in which case you have to bend the strip around in a slight spiral; this doesn't have much affect on the final product. Also, its best to bend a strip that's longer than the final strip's length, because bending the very ends of the strip is most difficult (in the picture I used the handle of the hammer to press the end of the strip against the mold). You measure the length of the strip you need before bending, and then cut off the extra ends after bending.
A couple other pointers about bending molds, or bending bamboo with heat in general:
  • Always use bamboo that's dry. Moisture keeps bamboo from setting after it's heated. Semi-dry bamboo will release moisture from the ends when bending it, which is usually a sign that it's being heated enough. Even days with high humidity can have an effect on how well bamboo retains its shape after molding.

  • It's easy to burn bamboo on a bending mold. Once the jig is warmed up or has been in use long enough, it only takes a minute or two to heat the bamboo enough to shape it.

  • As a basic rule, bend bamboo with the vascular bundles on the outside. When bending strips with the skin/vascular bundles on the inside, bend the strip more slowly, allowing the heat to soften the strip as you bend it, otherwise it could break (especially for thicker strips).

  • After the strip is molded, take it off the mold by hammering out the wedges. Bamboo that is still hot won't retain it's shape, so it's important either to hold the bamboo with gloved hands, or use another non-heated mold to keep it bent until it's cooled. At school we place the strips in tin containers roughly the same circumference as the final rim (see picture).

  • It's best to bend a strip more tightly (at a smaller diameter) than the curve it will be used for later. It's easier to unbend a strip without breaking than bend it more tightly after it was heated.

The bending mold we use at school is a rather complex piece of equipment that had cost the equivalent of several hundred dollars to have specially made. It's useful on an industrial scale, but remember that you don't need as fancy a device when making your own crafts at home. I've been successful bending 2.5 mm thick strips at home buy using a metal cake tin I bought at a 100-yen (1 dollar) store, screw-on clamps, and my kitchen stove. It takes a little longer but works just as well. Also, keep in mind that Japanese craftsmen long ago and some even today didn't/don't even use a round bending mold like this to make rims; they just rubbed the bamboo across their knees to soften and bend the bamboo enough to make a circle. Cutting the strip extra long before bending makes this method much easier.

I think that's about it. The process has become so natural to me by now that I can't think of anything else that might be worth mentioning. If you have any questions please leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

嬉しいニュースと悔しいニュース Translation Work and Bamboo

 皆さん、新年明けましておめでとうございます!良い年を迎えましたか?始まったばかりだから、まだ分からないって言っても当然だよね。
 さて、去年(2009年はもう去年か)の秋、僕は竹工芸の勉強とは別に、将来フリーランスの翻訳者として働けるための地盤づくりみたいなことにも取り組んでいた。今までこんな話をしているのは初めてだから皆さん知らないと思うが、僕は大学時代から翻訳が好きで、今でもそれが本格的な仕事として出来るようにいろいろと試行錯誤をしているが、一昨年まで大分県に務めた2年間の実務経験を別にすれば、報酬をもらいながらの翻訳の仕事を請けたことは今のところまだ少ない。フリーランス翻訳の業界では、実績というのが非常に重要で、つまり過去にその仕事をした経験があること自体が次の仕事の受注につながっていく、というとても新規の翻訳者として入りにくい状況になっている。僕はそういう大きな壁みたいなものに直面している段階にある。かといって、竹もあるから竹一本でやってもいいんじゃないか、と思われる方もいらっしゃるかもしれないが、そううまく行ったらいいんだけど、竹工芸もそれだけで食べていくのもかなり厳しい職業であるという風に聞いている。正確な数字は覚えていないけど、竹センターを卒業した人でも20人だった人数が数年後に3,4人の現役者になったりとか。それだけ竹製品の市場が昔と比べたら縮小しているし、よっぽど技術が高くて魅力のあふれる商品・作品を作っていないと食べていけないというのが実情。なので、ちょっと前置きが長くなっているけど、ちゃんと収入を得ながらの翻訳の仕事ができるようになったら、それが竹工芸に励むための支えにもなってくれるだろうとの考えが去年の秋のこの二つのことに取り組もうと思った動機付けだった。
 では、僕は何をしたかというと、9月にはJAT日本翻訳者協会第6回新人者翻訳コンテスト、そして10月にはTQE翻訳実務検定にチャレンジしてみたんだ。その結果、まず翻訳コンテストなんだけど、日英部門(提示された文章を日本語から英語に訳す部門)で5人の最終候補者まで進んだが、最終審査で落ちてしまった。これは12月25日に日本翻訳者協会のHPで発表されたもので、そして題でも示唆した悔しいニュースのことだ。まあ、それはよしじゃないけどよしとして、翻訳実務検定のことはと言うと、これも日英翻訳で、僕がたくさんの分野から選んだのが環境分野。二酸化炭素の回収・貯留技術についての長~い原稿を訳して提出してみたところ、3級に合格!という結果になった。たかが3級かと思われるかもしれないが、3級から1級までが合格と見なされていて、そして今回の試験の受験データをみてみると、合格者には1、2級に合格した者は一人もいない。ということで、文字通りの嬉しいニュースとして僕は受け止めている。じゃあ、これで無事仕事が出来るようになったのかというと、それはまだ分からないが、頑張ってみた甲斐があったことは言うまでもない。翻訳の仕事が入り出しつつ、最後の課題の制作作業を進められるといいんだけどな~。

Happy New Year, everyone! It's hard to believe we're already in the start of a new decade. It still feels like the 2000s started not too long ago.

I've already notified my friends and family of this news (perhaps more thoroughly than they cared to listen), but thought because it's relevant to my current studies with bamboo I'd share it with a wider audience. Aside from my bamboo craft training, I've also been pursuing work as a freelance translator. I should say "aspiring" really, because to work as a freelance translator one must have extended prior experience in a given field, and because I only have two years of general translation experience through working with the Oita prefectural government as a CIR I don't receive many job requests. So, to validate my skills as a capable and qualified translator I did two things this past fall that one needn't do when you are receiving a consistent flow of translation requests: I entered in the Japan Association of Translators 6th Annual JAT Translation Competition for New and Aspiring Translators, and I took the "Environment" section of the 51st TQE, or Translator Qualifying Examination, a translation certification test run by SunFlare Academy, a translation/interpretation school and agency based in Tokyo. Results for the former were not as savory as the latter. I advanced to the finals of the JAT competition, only to fall out in the last judging. For the TQE, I passed Level 3, which is the lowest of 7 levels that one must qualify in order to pass the test as a whole, and be granted the ability to register oneself in SunFlare's agency as a practicing freelance translator. The test results, shown here in Japanese on their home page, say the percentage of those who passed was 9% (54 out of 594 test-takers), but what was most surprising to me was that none of those who passed the test made it beyond level 3. This is all great news for me, because it's a sign that I just might receive more orders for translation work in the near future, hopefully putting me on track to translate on a regular basis and make it a source of income to support myself as I also develop my skills in bamboo crafts. They're both challenging, time- and energy-consuming careers that are difficult or nearly impossible to jump start, but for me they inform each other in ways that would leave me feeling a little empty if I were to focus on just one of them. While I'm on the subject, even for new graduates of the bamboo craft school here in Beppu, making a living off one's newly acquired skills is extremely difficult. I don't remember the exact figures, but just a few years after graduation, what starts as 20 fresh bamboo craft practitioners often dwindles to about 3 or 4. There are many reasons for this; one is simply that one year of training is often too short a time to acquire the technical experience with enough breadth to be able to develop on one's own bamboo products that are creative and take advantage of a certain niche in the available market. Another reason is that the market itself is much smaller than it used to be a few decades ago. For these and other reasons, many of the new graduates take on part-time jobs unrelated to bamboo crafts to support themselves as they continue their studies and focus on learning a particular type of bamboo product. This is where translation work for me comes in. I'm hoping for the best on both fronts.