Flower-like patterns made by interlacing rattan, hanamusubi are a secret technique being passed down from father to son.

What is Hanamusubi
Rattan is a generic name for a type of vine in the Arecaceae family. In Asia it grows in tropical rainforests such as Indonesia or Malaysia and cannot be cultivated in Japan. Compared to bamboo, it is stronger and harder to snap. The Nagasaki family, who served the Matsue clan in the Edo period (1603-1868), has been using rattan to make Tea Ceremony utensils such as suimori (charcoal-scuttles) since the late Edo period. Fukutaro Nagasaki (2nd), started weaving hanamusubi using rattan. 
The History of the Nagasaki Family
Even after the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912), the Nagasaki family continued to produce baskets. During the period when Japan was expanding rapidly, inexpensive rattan products started to be imported, impacting significantly on the domestic rattan work production. The Nagasaki family is said to have survived this slack thanks to its art of hanamusubi, which was cultivated by Matsue's Tea Ceremony patrons. The 6th generation Nagasaki has re-established the workshop to the "Izumo Kanbe no Sato" located in Oba-cho, Matsue City. There he teaches the art of rattan basketry twice a week while making his own baskets. In 2003, hanamusubi rattan basketry was designated a "Traditional Craft of Shimane Prefecture".
Passing Down the Skill
The bag maker Junpei Kawaguchi has now been assigned to be the eighth generation to inherit the secret skill from Makoto Nagasaki (6th). Kawaguchi was inspired to make bags with hanamusubi after seeing a hanamusubi basket with a poach and visited the Nagasaki family in hopes of learning how to make it. There, Kawaguchi experienced the harsh reality of traditional rattan basketry and began to learn the technique.
Izumo Kanbe no Sato Craft Center
Rattan as a Material
In Japan, rattan has been mainly used for rugs and furniture. Different types of rattan are used depending on the final product. The rattan used for making baskets is a relatively narrow width vine, about 4 ~ 8 mm in diameter. Although the appearance is similar to bamboo, the internal structure differs, being made of layers of fiber with many conduits running through it. The weaving methods for bamboo and rattan are almost the same. However, hanamusubi cannot be done with bamboo as it will break when it’s forcibly bent.    
A Secret Technique Passed Down from Father to Son
To repeatedly tie the hanamusubi when forming a basket requires high techniques and is physically challenging. Apparently hanamusubi baskets were also made in Osaka during the Taisho Period (1912-1926). However, because of the techniques were far more time-consuming than normal basketry, the products became very expensive. Soon the market was taken over by inexpensive imported rattan products.
Rattan Baskets for Three Generations
Rattan baskets can be used for more than 100 years. Use deepens the color and enhances the gloss. As the basket is used over the years, the texture of each flower fades and becomes smoother. It is said that it takes about 30 years for the basket to gain its best condition. Rattan baskets are unusual, making them popular among the kimono lovers.
Works of the Eighth Generation
Being a bag maker, it is natural that Kawaguchi wanted to use hanamusubi techniques to make rattan handbags. This one can also be used as a basket by removing the handle and poach. The handle is also made by Kawaguchi.
Passing Down the Technique to the Future
Although Nagasaki might show Kawaguchi sample pieces, basically the technique was passed down through oral instruction. When he earned the title of eighth generation, Kawaguchi had essentially mastered the technique. He says that if someone appears who is committed, he will pass on the skill to another. Until then Kawaguchi will continue to make rattan baskets to preserve the technique.
Mint chu chu Leather Kawaguchi Jumpei Store
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information and images provided by:
Izumo Kanbe no Sato Craft Center
Mint chu chu Leather Kawaguchi Jumpei Store

Direction & text:
Ueno Masato

English translation:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

Photo:
Mori Yoshiyuki

Exhibition created by:
Sugishima Tsubasa, Kyoto Women's Universit

Project Directors:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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