Saturday, May 30, 2009

大分合同新聞の記事 Article in the Oita Godo Shimbun Newspaper

 This is the article that appeared in the May 17th (Sunday) morning edition of the Oita Godo Shimbun, a local newpaper that covers news in the Oita prefecture area. You can look at the article more closely by clicking on the picture. There is also a copy of the article, including a color photo, on Oita Godo's webpage. A translation of the article is available below.

Prisoner of Bamboo Crafts
Mr. Jensen, former Coordinator for International Relations
First Foreigner at Beppu’s Training Center

Oita Godo Shimbun (Morning Edition), Sunday, May 17, 2009
Former Coordinator for International Relations and American native Stephen Jensen (Jonan Higashi-machi, Oita City) has been studying bamboo crafts at the Oita Prefecture Bamboo Craft and Training Support Center since April. This is the first time a foreigner has been admitted to the Center. He said enthusiastically, “I want to make all kinds of baskets. I need to work hard to get to that level.”

Mr. Jensen came to Oita Prefecture in August, 2006, and worked as an international relations coordinator until last summer. He is also a member of Sodokai, a drawing and painting group in Beppu City. Capturing bamboo as a subject for his paintings, he felt drawn to bamboo since his arrival to Japan, he says.

In October last year, students from Malaysia visited Beppu to study bamboo crafts. While working as an interpreter, Mr. Jensen watched bamboo being weaved from close up, which spurred his desire to come in touch with one of Japan’s traditional arts.

In the United States, “bamboo culture” is virtually nonexistent; it occupies little presence beyond its display as artwork in galleries. “I eventually hope to become a bridge—to help introduce Beppu’s bamboo crafts to Americans and deepen their understanding of it.”

Mr. Jensen will work for one year acquiring the basic techniques and production skills. “The most captivating thing about bamboo is its versatility. I see value in both purely aesthetic and utilitarian baskets. For now, I want to experiment with making different types.”

Trainees are currently working on making higo, the step before weaving when bamboo materials are shaped. It’s the foundation for all bamboo crafts, but keeping thickness consistent has been difficult. “Although, I have the hardest time getting used to sitting in seiza. My legs fall right to sleep.”

Shigeru Tamura, director of the Center, expressed his own expectations. “He’s been working diligently. I hope he’ll become a craftsman and carry on Beppu’s tradition.”

Photo caption: Stephen Jensen, who was admitted to the Center’s Bamboo Crafts Department in April this year. “I want to try making all kinds of baskets,” he says enthusiastically.

1 comment:

  1. That is so cool! Congrats on the press.