Saturday, May 2, 2009

Basket #1: Mutsume Morikago

On Thursday this week we started work on our first basket: mutsume morikago. Mutsume, as I explained in the last post, is a hexagonal weave (me refers to the holes between the higo, so, literally, "six hole"), and morikago means a "basket [on/in which you] pile [things]," or more simply, a tray. The bottom is hexagonal in shape, almost 20 centimeters across, and each side tapers together at the top to form a circular rim.


We started preparing the materials for this basket by cutting 6-meter-long culms (proper term for the "trunk" of the bamboo) of dried madake bamboo into 900 and 500 mm-long segments, and proceeded with processing these into higo to be used to weave the bottom and sides. I haven't yet properly described the process of making higo, and I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a good pictorial explanation online somewhere, but it's basically a long process of cutting bamboo vertically into strips and thinning those strips over a series of steps to bring them to a precise and consistent width and thickness. This was my first time processing over 200 strips at a time--great practice for improving my abilities, but also probably a realistic taste of the extreme repetitiveness that bamboo basket makers experience to make as ornate baskets as they do. All day Friday I worked on the same usuhagi step, in which I tried to thin higo 1.2-1.5 millimeters thick to a goal thickness of 0.6 millimeters. It's a frustrating process--any strip with a part less than 0.55 millimeters (the final thickness for weaving) thin is worthless. Measuring my strips with electronic calipers, my higo after usuhagi wavered between .5-something and .7-something millimeters; many I had to throw out because they were too thin in places, and many I had to thin again between they were over 0.8 millimeters, too thick to take to the next step. The picture below is my workspace; it shows a pile of segments in the arawari stage, where the bamboo is split radially (what they sometimes call "chrysanthemum splitting"), before the hagi stage when the strips are thinned by removing their inner side, opposite the skin.


  1. こんばんわ。いちかわです。

  2. 嘘や!あぐら用のイスなんてありえない。どんな形してるのかな?




  3. I read the news of you on Oita-godo newspaper!
    You are great!
    I hope you will show lots of products you make in this website.

    By the way, I maybe met you wearing samurai worrier's uniform in Kitsuki city on March 5...

  4. Thank you! I'll do my best to show what we are making at the bamboo craft training school. We're almost finished the mutsume morikago, actually! I'll post an update about that soon.

    Yes, Caitlyn and I were in the Edo parade at the Kitsuki Oshiro-matsuri. It was a hot, tiring day wearing the samurai costume for so long, but it was fun and I learned a lot.

    Thanks for reading my blog and also for commenting! Feel free to write your thoughts.
    See you next time.