Friday, October 31, 2008

day 304 - bamboo (7) - food and drink

Bamboo skewers are used widely for fish and chicken in yakitori.

Bamboo shoot.
Amazingly, the shoot already contains all the divisions and nodes which will later be formed in mature bamboo. We'd only ever eaten the canned stuff in Australia, but fresh, they're amazing! Unfortunately they're only available fresh for a few weeks in spring every year.


Because of its very fine grain, bamboo is ideal for spoons, rice paddles and chopsticks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

day 303 - bamboo (6) - Design

Family Crest near Matsue Castle.

Bamboo has a rich history in Japanese design. It may symbolise Nature, Purity, Strength or Fexibility in the form of leaves, shoots or culms. Flowering or snow-covered it may be a metaphor for season. It can be found in crests or represented on a bamboo product itself, such as a screen or fan.

Lantern base in the shape of a bamboo stalk.

Ceramic roof tiles may have originally been  capping to extend the life of bamboo rafters.

Sparrows nesting in leaves.
Edo Period painted shoji screen,
Old Hagi.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

day 302 - bamboo (5) - furnishing

So many varieties.
Bamboo workshop,

Bamboo gives privacy, adds organic texture, divides spaces...
Shirahamakan Hotel,
Shirarahama Beach,

Bamboo blind and shamisen.

Hanging 'mobile' and feature wall.
Len restaurant,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

day 301 - bamboo (4) - windows

Bamboo bars on the top floor of Matsumoto castle give a definite Japanese flavour to this open-air window.

The structural grid-pattern was often left unplastered to form a window.
Samurai quarters,
Old Hagi

In the days before glass, bamboo provided some security and privacy but still alowed a view of an atrium-style garden.
Geisha House,

A cross-section of bamboo makes an interesting window feature.
Geisha House,

Monday, October 27, 2008

day 300 - bamboo (3) - walls and roofs

Bamboo was often used as rafters for thatched roofs all over Japan.


Wattle and daub.
This technique can be found throughout the world. Sticks and clay strengthened with straw. In Japan the 'sticks' were usually split bamboo.


Deconstructed wall.
Time is undoing the construction process.
Derelict farmhouse, Hayashida.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

day 299 - bamboo (2) - construction

Bamboo isn't much used structurally today in contemporary buildings, although it seems to be regaining popularity in ornamentation. This museum at the foot of Mt Shosa (out of Himeji) is itself built inside a tiny grove of bamboo and harmonises with both the vegetation and the mountain.

Its hollowness gives it lightness, but it's the dividing lateral nodes which provide strength.

Lashed together it's a firm platform.

Traditional bamboo floor around the irori (sunken fireplace.)
Housing Museum,

Fence rail, 

Bamboo scaffolding is extremely flexible - a huge advantage in a country where earth tremors are common. When we first visited Singapore in 1978 multistorey buildings were being constructed inside of  tied bamboo rigging ten storeys high.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

day 298 - beautiful bamboo

A massive bamboo stem thrusts into the sky beside the Bitchu Kokobun-ji Pagoda on the Kibi Plain. Hard to believe it's a grass, not a tree...

Bamboo - take - is such an integral part of the culture that it's impossible to spend a day here without seeing or touching the stuff.
It weaves its way through Japanese folk tales, ritual and religion - indeed the entire history of the Japanese people. It forms the structure of their houses, the raw material for their arts and crafts. It's eaten. It's appreciated for its strength, flexibility and intrinsic beauty.
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of images of bamboo in Japan. I hope you're as fascinated by the stuff as I am!



Feature wall,
Otemae Restaurant,

Old Window,
derelict house,

Friday, October 24, 2008

day 297 - Conspicuous Consumption

Denki gomi. Electrical trash. There's a great system here for rubbish collection. If it works, people help themselves...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

day 296 - Aboshi Lantern Festival (cont'd)...

Old Japan meets New Japan. The young people of the district have chosen a contemporary manga character as the theme for their giant lantern in this ancient ritual.

It's a bit complicated, but bear with me... Medama Oyaji is the father of the boy Kitaro, a manga created by the famous Shigeru Mizuki. Medama Oyaji was once a fully-formed adult who perished of a disease, only to be reborn out of his decayed body as an anthropomorphic version of his own eyeball. He enjoys staying clean, and is often seen bathing in a small bowl...

Not much left of his eye/head now. Strange they should choose to destroy a character they admire. Some politician in effigy might have been better. Wakarimasen.

These beautiful large lanterns above the shrine's archway weren't smashed.

After a day of carting these massive things all around Aboshi, these teams are exhausted, but they continue  lifting, bouncing and swaying the illuminated yatai into the night...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

day 295 Aboshi Lantern Festival


When we first heard that Aboshi hosted an annual Lantern Festival, this was the serene scene we envisaged. Or perhaps tea-lights floating on a tranquil lake.
But that doesn't happen.

It begins with a quiet communal song gradually rising in volume and pace.

At some particular point in the song everyone runs together and the bamboo-and-paper lanterns collide

until they are totally destroyed...

Then the participants smash the bamboo poles until they too are destroyed and the men are exhausted. It's all good clean violent fun! When it all gets a little too frenetic a 'referee' blows a whistle and the 'play' is suspended. Amazingly, with all the flying lanterns and shards of bamboo, we didn't see any injuries.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

day 294 - my noto

Let's Enjoy Writing!
This is the book I've filled with short stories and poems over the last few months. I've found the cover and the horizontal lines particularly inspiring for arranging my words in the way best.

Monday, October 20, 2008

day 293 - Zuiganji on Mt Masui

Yesterday we took the bikes to the foot of Mt Masui, then walked to the temple Zuiganji at the top. We rode through the backstreets pretty much randomly, but in the right direction, and surprised ourselves by actually finding it!

Momiji - Japanese Maple. Autumn is a wonderful time here. The leaves are just beginning to turn, the days are warm and the nights are cool.

Entrance to the Tomb of Tadatsugu Sakakibara (1665).

Zuiganji was established by the Buddhist priest Eben of Koguryo (an ancient kingdom of what is now Korea) in the Nara Period (710-794).