Bamboo / Tango Tanimura
Tango Tanimura, Chasen Artist
谷村丹後 茶筅師 奈良県生駒市
How do you maintain your creative edge and inspiration when you are limited to producing essentially the same artistic objects, day after day, year after year? This is the question one might ask Mr. Tango Tanimura, the 20th generation chasen (bamboo tea whisk) master craftsman, who is carrying on his family’s 500-year-old tradition of making bamboo Japanese tea ceremony utensils in Takayama, Nara Prefecture.
The answer lies in the bamboo and the process itself. To untrained eyes, all bamboo looks the same. But Mr. Tanimura knows differently. Each piece of bamboo is uniquely different. He knows this not just from the appearance, but also from the feel of the bamboo, and the sounds it makes as he carves and splits the bamboo. His finely tuned senses tell him how to work the bamboo in order to complete the tea whisk without wasting any of the material (mottainai ? the concept of wasting nothing). Therefore, each piece he produces is also unique.
Bamboo Flower Container / 竹花入れ / H 30cm
Black Bamboo Chasen （tea whisk) / 黒竹茶筅 / Φ6cm, 12.5cm L
Futaoki (lidrest) / 蓋置 / H 5cm
Chasen (tea whisk) with color thread / 紅白色糸茶筅 / Made of bamboo, L 19cm
These skills are passed down orally through the generations, from father to eldest son. When it became his responsibility to take on the family tradition, Mr. Tanimura, initially felt this history weigh heavily on him. In time though, rather than feeling daunted by this, he became grateful for the dedication of his forebearers that had granted him this unique calling.
As an artisan, his work is not limited to making chasen. He uses all parts of the bamboo and nothing is wasted. He produces other utensils essential to the tea ceremony. In his studio we can find chashaku (tea scoop), hishaku (water ladle) and take-hanaire (bamboo flower vase).
Mr. Tanimura’s primary concern is that the utensils he makes are practical and contribute to a wonderful experience for all who take part in a Japanese Tea ceremony.
Photography by Masahiro Yanagawa