Beppu Artist 豊泉堂 by Maki Aizawa

After visiting some bamboo artists, I had planned to meet a toy maker, Hiroshi Miyawaki. When I called him from San Francisco a week ago, he told me to change the plan and date because they are expecting a big storm. This time too, he said "I haven't been out of the house for two days. I live up on the hill. Too Dangerous!!" As I arrived at his home studio, he was laughing in astonishment. In the Southern Island, little snow means big snow and everyone is extremely cautious for one another.

He is originally from Nagoya and a salesperson at a major department store but when he visited Beppu forty years ago, he saw the adorable toy crafts and felt that he could make them. He decided to stay and kept making the toys ever since. I think that it is a lovely story of a salesperson.

It was already dark outside and the roads to an inn I reserved in Yufuin was completely closed. Miyawaki San told me "I will call my friend's inn. You will like her and her staff. They are like you!" I drove narrow roads of the Kannawa District with steams coming out from every gutter of the streets.

Bamboo in Beppu City by Maki Aizawa

On my first day of this trip, I flew from Haneda to Oita Prefecture in the Southern Island of Kyushu. I drove snowy country roads to meet bamboo artists for our upcoming workshops in Sonoma and San Francisco. 

Beppu is known for bamboo crafts started in the late 14th century. During the Edo period (1600–1868) the city flourished as a tourist town and bamboo baskets were popular as regional souvenirs for travelers and also the baskets were used by local people for every day lives.

I visited the Beppu City Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center. Here, free classes are offered throughout a year. The city is encouraging people to continue the traditions.