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Okuaizu Amikomi Zaiku (basket made by vines or grasses)


As the name Oku suggests, this craft is produced in a mountainous area surrounded by deep forests in Aizu area, Fukushima prefecture. Naturally, the material, vines and plant stems are plentiful, and it is said that people in this area created the beautiful crafts such as baskets and sieves utilizing them in Jomon period, more than 2400 years ago.

The source plants varies from vines of wild grape and catnips, grasses such as cold sedge (Kansuge, also called Hiroro) and Akaso, kind of hemp, and barks of trees like Japanese linden. Each plant has its own characteristics such as; wild grape vine is strong and good for big baskets or containers, catnip vines are easily dried and the sieves of catnips tend to be used for washing vegetable, and Hiroro can produce lacy surface with durability for its very thin but strong fiber.

The art is mentioned in documents like Aizu Nosho (book about agriculture in Aizu, published in 1684) and Toyu Zakki (travel book by Furukawa Kosyoken, 1788), but not really be encouraged as industry. Those bags and goods were thought to be dairy wares for local people. Actually, the toughness due to the accurate and intrinsic technique of skilled artisans is just practical for dairy use and the surface grows transparent amber color over years you use. The artisans now still keeps the art in this way.

Since the aging of craftsmen, it is now protected as a traditional crafts and sold widely. Okuaizu Amikomi Zaiku was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 2003.

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