Objects of infinite beauty – Chiku’unsai IV Tanabe

Objects of infinite beauty – Chiku’unsai IV Tanabe

The work of bamboo artist Chiku’unsai IV Tanabe is made in a small atelier in Osaka. A small courtyard welcomes you as you walk through the grated door. The atelier is a glass enclosed room to the left of a stone pathway. Chiku’unsai IV Tanabe concentrates on his work along with three young artists.
His pieces are displayed in the British Museum, The Boston Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The entry way and the living room is filled with his pieces as well as those of his predecessors. Vases and art pieces made by weaving multiple thinly carved pieces of bamboo. The curves unique to bamboo are delicate yet tense.

“Bamboo art has been in my life from a very young age. My father and grandfather both worked at home, and I grew up observing them and trying to imitate them. I was also studying the art of tea (sado), Japanese flower arranging (kado) and calligraphy (shodo), and that experience is very helpful in my work. There were times I considered other art forms during my studies at art school in Tokyo, but I think it might have been in my genes to carry on the family tradition which led me to succeed the Chiku’unsai name.”

Chiku’unsai Tanabe is a well known name of a bamboo artist from Sakai. The first generation participated in many national and international expositions in the Meiji and Showa eras. The second generation developed a new technique using the transparent nature of bamboo to highlight light and shadow, earning him the Medal with Dark Blue Ribbon. The third generation developed a style that combined points and lines using “yachiku” bamboo. Each generation continued the exquisite tradition of bamboo art while also adding their unique styles.

Tanabe creates traditional vases and pieces for tea ceremonies, while also displaying larger pieces to be displayed at exhibitions and installations. Bamboo can be manipulated to form different shapes by weaving pieces together, and the large pieces standing 8 meters tall and using more than 10,000 strands are quite impressive even in photos.

“I move around with the bamboo in my hand, weaving by instinct based on how it fits into the setting. Once the exhibition is over, we take it apart and move on to the next location. The nature of bamboo makes this all possible.”
Not only does he create art pieces, but he also nurtures people. He has trained 12 people over the past 10 years, focusing on nurturing the next generation.

“When I trained under my father, we used to work 24 hours without a break. No one will train with me if we do that now. Our artwork and our training methods need to change with the times. As long as we pass on the basics of bamboo art, I think it’s okay for the system to change. If I train people as I create my work and travel all over the world and meet people, I can expand my potential. Don’t you think it’s the ideal job?”
In fact, most of his pieces are purchased by foreigners.

“From a business perspective, selling all my pieces overseas makes sense. But that means that there won’t be any bamboo art pieces in Japan. That’s why we aim to sell about 20% in Japan to relay the beauty of bamboo art. I hope that someday, bamboo artist is a sought after job.”

Beauty that seems fragile, yet has a strength that can withstand being bent. It would be a waste to only share the beauty of bamboo art with foreigners. That is why Tanabe holds workshops and exhibitions and classes. Why not take part if you have the opportunity?


Chiku’unsai IV Tanabe
3-2-28 Kitatadeicho, Sakai-ku, Sakai-shi, Osaka
TEL 072-229-0216
URL https://chikuunsai.com/