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Events - 11.02.2022

Sustaining Black Bamboo | The Artist and the Woodsman


11.02.2022 (Wed.)


05:00 PM - 06:00 PM (PDT)





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Bamboo is the primary material in Tanabe Chikuunsai IV’s art, from his small-scale flower baskets and sculptures to his massive installations. He weaves together hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of slender strips of bamboo, cut from bamboo harvested from forests that are dwindling in number and size due to the shrinking demand for bamboo in modern daily life. In order to source a continuous supply of the material, both he and his father, Chikuunsai III, have nurtured a strong, mutually supportive relationship with Kanasaki Chikuzaiten (Kanasaki Bamboo Store), a cultivator and purveyor of black bamboo. By making art, Chikuunsai ensures a demand for the bamboo, and by growing bamboo and managing the forests, Kanasaki maintains the supply.

In this webinar artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV introduces the background and concepts within his current installation at JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, with specific focus on the relationship his work has with sustaining the bamboo forests of Japan and his special partnerships with bamboo foresters. Akihito Kanasaki, current chairman/owner of the Kanasaki Chikuzaiten joins Chikuunsai to discuss the history of Kanasaki Chikuzaiten’s work managing Japanese black bamboo and current challenges his company and other growers and purveyors face in managing bamboo forests, as falling demand leaves many bamboo groves stagnant, unhealthy, and susceptible to invasive species. They also share how the symbiotic relationship between the bamboo woodsman and bamboo artist (in their case, now in its second generation) can help create new outlets and demand for black bamboo and sustain black bamboo forests in Japan.

The discussion is in Japanese with English translation.

*To watch the video in full screen, please click on the image above, then click on the YouTube icon on the lower right-hand corner. 

A sink and bowl made with black bamboo
A tea whisk made using black bamboo
A broom made using black bamboo
Ballpoint pen made of black bamboo and a pen case



Akihito Kanasaki
Chairman/owner of the Kanasaki Chikuzaiten. Graduated from Osaka Sangyo University.

Kanasaki Chikuuzaiten (Kanasaki Bamboo Store) has been in business for over 110 years, preserving the black bamboo culture of the Kishū region (present day Wakayama prefecture) and is the only workshop remaining in Japan processing and selling natural Japanese Black Bamboo (kurochiku) to artists and fabricating black bamboo products for the public.

Read more.

Kanasaki is the third generation in his family to manage and own the business. He is currently working with his son with the intention of handing over the management of the company and with it the responsibility of sustaining Japan’s black bamboo groves for future generations.

Kanasaki Chikuzaiten sources its black bamboo from two forests they manage in Wakayama and in Kochi prefectures, all harvested by Kanasaki and his family. Each piece of black bamboo is carefully finished using traditional techniques for use in garden and architectural materials, stationery, home goods and gift items. In addition to sales, the company is actively involved in spreading awareness of Japan’s declining bamboo forests through public tours of bamboo groves and other sustainability projects, such as the planting of bamboo on the plains.

Photo by Minamoto Tadayuki

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV was born Tanabe Takeo in 1973. Like his father, Tanabe Chikuunsai III, he attended Osaka Kōgei High School, an art high school, and earned a degree in sculpture from Tokyo University of the Arts. As a young artist, Shōchiku III, he continued the tradition of making bamboo baskets and small-scale sculptures, but he also began collaborating with artists in other media.

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In 2011, he started creating large-scale dramatic, immersive installations that evoke the bamboo forests from which he sources his materials. In 2017, three years after the death of his father, he was given the name Chikuunsai IV.

Chikuunsai has received many awards in Japan, including the Mayor’s Award at the Sakai City Art Exhibition in 2001, the Osaka Craft Exhibition Choice Award at the All Kansai Art Exhibition in 2004, and the Outstanding Artist Award from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in March 2022. He has created installations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and the Odunpazarı Modern Museum (OMM) in Eskisehir, Turkey, and his work is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He won the first Mingei Bamboo Prize (awarded by the Guimet Museum in Paris and the Mingei Gallery) in 2021.

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