Slim strips of smooth bamboo interweave in a lacelike pattern in Kohchosai Kosuga’s ‘Mutsume’ basket. But while the airy object is deceptively simple in its style, its handcrafted conception and the brand behind these unique bamboo artifacts tell a tale of artistic legacy and deep tradition.
Established in 1898, the Japanese company was founded by Kocho Ueda, a painter in the Edo era, supplying bamboo crafts to the Japanese Imperial Family. A sustainable plant that grew plentifully around the nation, bamboo provided an easily accessible wood source, and its strength and stability imbued it with symbolic significance in Japanese culture. Items such as flower baskets, spoons, and tea whisks figure prominently in traditional ceremonies, whether incense, tea, or flower arrangement. Today, the company continues to focus on creating beauty in everyday objects, carrying on the tradition while striving to meet the demands of modern lifestyles.
Kohchosai Kosuga harvests its bamboo during the cold winter months using a blade called kiku-wari; in spring, the oil is extracted from the stalks by steaming them in a special kiln. The bamboo is then hung to dry in the sun for a month and finished with two or three rounds of dyeing and lacquering before handweaving it into patterns that are both aesthetically attractive and durable—a delicate process that takes an elevated level of artisan skill.