⟨ Craft ⟩

Products of the Local Cultures and Environments

Japanese Baskets

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

猜想得到這籃子的用途嗎?是花器?還是農夫帶著便當的提籃?它大概還有很多可能性,不過它最初的用途,其實是當小艇在海上突然進水時,用來瓢水的工具。這籃子產於日本的沖繩,與水極為親近的地域,而材料則是被當地人稱作久葉(Kuba)的檳榔葉。檳榔葉被廣泛使用在沖繩各個小島的祭禮中,當地人認為,它是能與神連繫,有著奇異力量的植物,在沖繩文化及歷史上,都有著重要地位。

Can you guess the use of this basket? To place flowers? To carry farm produce? I am sure it can be used in many other ways too, but its most authentic usage was to scoop out water that has gone inside a boat. This basket is made in Okinawa, an island surrounded by water. The material used to make the basket is a kind of betel leaf known as Kuba to the locals. On the Okinawa islands, betel leaves are widely used in the rituals and ceremonies. Since the locals see it as a magical plant that can connect one to the gods, it carries a strong significance in the Okinawa culture and history.

日本各個地域都生產著不同的籃子,就像久葉藍一樣,不管用途、材料等,都與當地風土密不可分。工匠總是在身近之處覓得材料,再千方百計將之化為實用而具美感之物,例如秋田縣的山上,蔓生著山葡萄,工匠便用它的莖來造籃子。要將長得彎曲的山葡萄莖造成織籃子的材料極花工夫,而為了呈現原材料天然的美感,工匠在編織時,會刻意不把山葡萄莖拉扯得太緊密。人類與自然共生的情景,彷彿自籃子裡流露出來。

日光土心(Light and Will)是一家網上商店,同時也是一個以籃子為中心,與日本民藝相關的計劃。店主前田征紀自2013年起,走訪日本各地收集籃子,同時拜訪製作籃子的工匠,了解當地的人文風景,現時已經成為推動日本民藝的重要一員。2016年,日光土心開始於福岡、東京等城市,展出及售賣其藏品,讓更多人了解籃子作為民藝品及生活用品的魅力。本月23日起,日光土心將走進伊賀的Gallery Yamahon,舉辦名為「日本の籠 その記憶」(日本之籃 及其記憶)的展覽,用籃子說著關於風土人情的故事。

Various kinds of baskets are produced in many regions in Japan. Similar to this Kuba basket, the Japan-made baskets are closely related to the local environment. The relationship can often be seen in their usages and materials. The artisans would use the handy materials to make the baskets and turn them into practical items that have a high aesthetic value. For instance, Amur grape is a species native to Akita Prefecture, the local artisans would use their stems to weave baskets. The Amur grape stem is very long and twisted, it is therefore rather time-consuming to weave it into a basket. To retain the natural beauty of the material, the artisans tend to avoid twisting the stems too tightly together. The making of a basket appears to have manifested the condition of how human co-exist with nature.

Light and Will is an online shop that is keen on promoting Japanese arts and crafts. Using baskets as the main focus of the project, the shop owner has traveled to various regions in Japan since 2013 to collect baskets and to talk to the basket makers. His effort in understanding local Japanese cultures has made him an important member of advocating Japanese arts and crafts. In 2016, Light and Will began to set up shops in Fukuoka, Tokyo, and other cities to exhibit and sell their collection. This is a step to showcase to the general public the charisma of baskets; both as a form of arts and crafts, as well as an everyday item. Starting from the 23rd of December, Light and Will will be holding an exhibition called Japanese Baskets and the Memories. The baskets will become storytellers that narrate stories of local cultures, environments, customs, and practices.