Bamboo (take)

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Bamboo (take 竹)

Bamboo is maybe the most representative plant of Asia. The bamboo grove with the seven sages of old China 竹林七賢 has enchanted Asian art for hundreds of years. See below.

Daruma skillfully made of a piece of bamboo

Collection of Gabi Greve, Daruma Museum
Take - Bamboo Art Read more.

Bamboo is with us all year round, so TAKE 竹 is not a kigo in itself. But it has many seasonal associations.

First some general remarks on Bamboo by Haiku Poet Geert Verbeke
Bamboo is a revered plant, depicts summer and is the most painted subject in the Orient. Bamboo is associated with the moon, and the moon with a dragon。

Bamboo represents strength and the virtues of the male, reflecting a senseof perfect balance with upright integrity and tremendous flexibility. Bamboois a long lived and evergreen beautiful plant, world-wide a source of inspiration for many artists. This grass family (Gramineae) is originating from tropical and subtropical regions, most abundant in the monsoon area of East Asia.

Bamboo can reach 30 m high and 30 cm diameter. The center of the bamboo plant is hollow, suggesting humility. The bamboo plant bears no flower or fruit which are considered temporary make-up. Due to its unique structure and qualities, not found elsewhere in the plant kingdom, the bamboo culm is suited for a multitude of applications, with many admirable qualities.

Bamboo is always been used for many wonderful purposes:

Food: bamboo shoots;

Houses: roofs, traps, walls, mats, furniture, trellis, fences, poles,
split bamboo floors;

bridge construction; irrigation systems: with as heart a water wheel constructed almost entirely of various bamboo species. This fast growing, renewable building material offers unparalleled strength and a graceful form, not only for supporting plants but also for creating decorative structures.

Bamboo is a source of countless useful products:

artwork: pencils, frames. Bamboo as a profound influence on local legends, writers, painters and musicians. The bamboo is thought of as the Father of brush painting (Sumi-e), representing simplicity of life and a humble spirit;

Containers and vessels: for the storage or transport of water;

Weapons: kendo bamboo swords;

Knifes: used to cut the umbilical cord at birth and employed during burial ceremonies. In the lifes of the indigenous peoples of Asia bamboo is present from cradle to grave. Bamboo is also employed in many traditional ceremonies and may be used as medicine or charm. anglers; music instruments;

Lucky bamboo sticks: feng shui.

Flutes: Bamboo flutes are considered one of the best Feng Shui cures available.

Geert Verbeke


"Three friends of Winter", Pine, Bamboo and Plum
Shoo-chiku-bai (shochikubai) 松竹梅

They are an auspicious assembly used since olden times in Chinese art, later in Japanese art too. The symbolic meaning of the Pine Tree is "Long Life". Pine trees show abundand green even in the fiercest of winter and hardly dry out, so they have been a symbol of long life in China since old times. As symbol of good luck and agelessness this tree has stood in veneration and together with the bamboo, which bends but never breaks and plum tree, one of the first flowers of spring, as become an expression of celebration and joy.

In this example, they are painted on a Daruma Doll, for extra good luck at New Year.

Click the doll for the text.

Bamboo, Crane and the Turtle are a group for Long Life.

Bamboo, Sparrow and Snow are a group representing Friendship.


Zen und Bambus, Bambus und Zen
Eine Geschichte aus China

. Edo no takenoko 江戸の筍 bamboo shoots in Edo .

**************** KIGO *************


take no aki - Autumn of the bamboo 竹の秋
The leaves look almost orange as tree leaves to in autumn.

haru no takenoko 春の筍 (はるのたけのこ)
bamboo shoots in spring
..... harutake no ko 春筍(はるたけのこ)
..... shunjun 春筍(しゅんじゅん)

"bamboo splitting festival", takewari matsuri Japan 竹割祭



. take no ko, takenoko <> bamboo shoots 筍  .
笋(たけのこ), takanna たかんな, たかうな
hachiku no ko 淡竹の子(はちくのこ)bamboo sprouts
madake no ko 苦竹の子(まだけのこ)- 真竹
moosoochiku no ko 孟宗竹の子(もうそうちくのこ)

takenoko meshi 筍飯(たけのこめし) rice with bamboo sprouts
..... nokomeshi のこめし, tako una たこうな, takanna たかんな

kigo for early summer

hachiku : Phyllostachys nigra
madake : Phyllostachys bambusoides
moosoochiku : Phyllostachys pubescens

They are one of those delicasies of the season, free food in rural areas. On the picture below it says they are in season from beginning of April to beginning of May.

- - - - - Bamboo shoots in my woods, summer 2010

takenoko no chiyo mo pokkiri ore ni keri

the thousand year
bamboo shoot...
snap! broken

Kobayashi Issa

Robin D. Gill points out that pokkiri in the Edo era connoted "the sound made when a hard thing breaks." Shinji Ogawa explains:
"If there were no people, the bamboo shoot would grow to adulthood and enjoy the thousand years of its life. But someone has snapped the bamboo shoot for dinner."
Tr. David Lanoue


take no kawa nugu <> peeling off wrapped leaves of bamboo, skin of bamboo 竹の皮脱ぐ
take no kawa 竹の皮(たけのかわ)
take no kawa chiru 竹の皮散る(たけのかわちる)

take ochiba - fallen leaves of bamboo 竹落ち葉 ,
take no ha chiru 竹の葉散る(たけのはちる)

sasa chiru 笹散る, take no ochiba 竹の落葉

(early summer)
During the summer, if you walk in a bamboo grove, the earth is covered with the small slender leaves of bamboo. This is the season when bamboo changes its leaves.
(ochiba is a kigo of winter.)

Day to plant bamboo : take ueru hi 竹植える日, take utsusu 竹移す, take suijitsu 竹酔日
The 13th of May, according to the Lunar Calendar, was best suited for this activity. Sometimes this day is also called "birthday of the bamboo" take tanjistu 竹誕日. Nowadays this is around June 23.

Shino Bamboo sprouts, suzu no ko, sasa no ko 笹の子, 芽笹, 篶(すず)の子, 馬篠,兒(ちご)篠, 焼葉篠, 五枚篠
mezasa 芽笹(めざさ) shino bamboo sprouts
Shinodake 篠竹 is a special slender type of bamboo, also called Hokodake 鉾竹.
shino 篠 small kind of bamboo, arrow bamboo
shinodake 篠竹, medake メダケ(雌竹)
Pleioblastus Simonii
shinohara 篠原 arrow bamboo grove


hatsujimo ya aki o kometemo okitsuran
kesa iro kawaru noji no shinohara

Have the first frosts
In the midst of autumn
This morning has brought a change of hue
To the arrow-bamboo groves in Noji!

Tr. Thomas McAuley

Lord Kanemune. Roppyaku-ban Uta Awase

. fallen leaves, falling leaves, ochiba 落葉 .


plant kigo for mid-summer

kotoshi-dake, kotoshidake 今年竹 bamboo of this year 

take no hana 竹の花 (たけのはな) bamboo flowers
take saku 竹咲く(たけさく) bamboo is flowering
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

plant kigo for late summer

wakatake 若竹 (わかたけ) young bamboo
..... kotoshidake 今年竹(ことしだけ)bamboo of this year
take no wakaba 竹の若葉(たけのわかば)young leaves of bamboo
take no wakamidori 竹の若緑(たけのわかみどり) young green of bamboo

wakatake ya kore mo wakaki wa nisan nichi

young bamboos --
these, too, young
for two or three days

Tr. Chris Drake

This early summer hokku is from the 4th month (May) of 1810, when Issa was traveling around the area east of Edo. In May new bamboos are coming up all over the place, and Issa says these bamboo shoots, too, are youths / have a youth lasting only two or three days (an expression that can also mean a few days). The implied comparison seems to be the main focus of the hokku.
I take the "too" to refer to young humans. In fact, the most common meaning of wakaki in the second line was a youth or young person. In Issa's time older children spent much of their time raising younger siblings, child labor was common, and even in families that were "middle class" children were often sent out for training as apprentices or servants at nine or ten. In a way Issa was lucky he didn't get sent out for training until he was thirteen (fourteen by Japanese counting), though he had to go all the way to Edo.

Chris Drake

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


humanity kigo for mid-summer

take uu 竹植う (たけうう) planting bamboo
take uu hi 竹植う日(たけううひ) day to plant bamboo
take utsusu 竹移す(たけうつす)replanting bamboo
take tanjitsu 竹誕日(たけたんじつ)"bamboo birthday"
take suijitsu 竹酔日(たけすいじつ)
take meijitsu 竹迷日(たけめいじつ)
chikuyoojitsu 竹養日(ちくようじつ)

According to the old Chinese tradition, bamboo planted on the 13 day of the fifth lunar month, this bamboo would certainly take roots and grow well. This custom was also appreciated in Japan, where bamboo planting began just at the beginning of the rainy season

降らずとも 竹植る日は 蓑と笠
furazu tomo take uu hi wa mino to kasa

even if it does not rain
they plant on bamboo planting day -
a mino-raincoat and a rain-hat

Matsuo Basho, between 41 and 51 years of age.

Basho uses the expression "mino to kasa" to describe the looks of the farmers planting bamboo.

In China the 13th day of the 5th lunar month was called
takesuijtsu 竹酔日 day to plant bamboo.

mino to kasa 蓑と笠
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. SAIJIKI ... HUMANITY - Kigo for Summer  

. harusame ya mono katariyuku mino to kasa .
Yosa Buson


"Bamboo Wife" (chiku fujin) Asia. Bamboo sleeping companion.
"Dutch Wife"



Take no haru - spring of the bamboo (mid-autumn) 竹の春

Look at a wonderful picture here:

Take kiru <> cutting bamboo (if you cut in other season, it does not keep well) 竹切る/ 竹伐る (たけきる)

Take no mi <> fruit of the bamboo 竹の実


observance kigo for early autumn

. tanabatadake 七夕竹 bamboo for Tanabata .
tansakudake 短冊竹(たんざくだけ)bamboo for Tansaku
tanabatadake uri 七夕竹売(vendor of tanabata bamboo poles



stilts, takeuma, takashi (all winter) 竹馬、 高馬、高足、たかし、


takeuma (chikuba) literally means : Bamboo Horse
sagiashi literally means : legs of a heron.

. Takeuma - bamboo stilts and toys from Japan .


New Year Kigo

kazaritake - Bamboo decoration 飾り竹 , 飾竹

See Kadomatsu, Pine Decorations for more explanation.


Buddha's Belly, Bambusa ventricosa

CLICK for more photos

Bambusa ventricosa is a species of bamboo which is native to the Guangdong province in China. The species is cultivated in subtropical regions all over the world because of its bulbous and ornamental clums. It is also used in bonsai.

ryuuchiku 龍竹 "dragon bamboo"
in Yunnan china


Bamboo Music Instruments from the whole world.

Weaving Bamboo
- Reference -


The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove
.. .. .. Bonsai with this name


The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove were a group of Chinese scholars, poets, artists and musicians of the mid-3rd century AD who banded together to escape from the hypocrisy and danger of the official world to a life of drinking wine, playing music and writing verse in the country.
Look at their musical world here:
.. .. .. Screen painting


The Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove

- Reference -


Bamboo Haiku and Photos by Gabi Greve

the sound of iced snow
in the bamboo grove

Look at my
Bamboo Haiku Story. 竹物語


shiore fusu ya yo wa sakasama no yuki no take

withered and bent over,
the whole world upside down:
bamboo in snow

Tr. Barnhill

Written in 寛文7年, Basho age 24.
Most probably he had been to the funeral of child of his friend. The poor parents are devastated and bend like the bamboo in snow.

The pattern is 6 7 5.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

- Snow and Bamboo - Gabi Greve - 2008


pen drawing
with Indian ink
bamboo shoots

fleeting shadows
a fountain of leaves
single bamboo

Geert Verbeke


the bamboo princess
waiting in the ricefield
for the moon

Ikebana and Haiku by Erika Schwalm

The Bamboo Princess, Kaguya-Hime


kansoo ni makete ya waruru take no oto

in dry air
it gives up and splits -
sound of bamboo

Gabi Greve, (C) 2004

The air has gotten so dry, the bamboo over in the grove starts his grueling "Splitting song" of spring. Ponn, ponn, poooonk. An eery sound on such a warm sunny, but very dry day.
Happy Haiku Forum

bamboo grove
sunshine dripping
from wet leaves

Gabi Greve (C) 2004
More Haiku about Bamboo
Daruma Forum Gabi Greve


.. Young bamboo shoots...
.. merry ladies of Kashimoto,
.. are they still there?


Well, the ones I saw in my bamboo grove the other day looked like that too, maybe its the velvet gown, the softness of the outer garment of these shoots, that got Buson associating. And the figure of a 20 cm bamboo shoot from a little afar (provided you stretch out on the earth)
looks just like an Oiran! (the great lady of pleasure).

bamboo breaking through -
on the ground
tiny earthquakes

Gabi Greve, 2004
Happy Haiku Forum


sudden gusts -
the highest bamboo
sways longest

Gabi Greve, June 2010 - with photos


WASHOKU - Bamboo as Food

. take gangu 竹玩具 bamboo toys and dolls .





Anonymous said...

Gabi, I have been here ... oh! about 10 times in the past two days & no doubt, will return many more. Thank You. I would like to share one of my haiku with you:

almost spring
under the passing breeze
flowers of snow

Gabi Greve said...

hototogisu ootakeyabu o moru tsukiyo

little cuckoo -
moonlight filters through
the vast bamboo grove

Read a discussion about this haiku by Matsuo Basho.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE from

ABE Kiraku Motoshi

(b. 1942)

Abe's career as a bamboo artist began auspiciously. Right out of high school, he studied with Shono Shounsai, Japan's first Living National Treasure in bamboo arts.

"My apprenticeship to master Shounsai was a very difficult two years," Abe recalls. "He was so great an artist that I felt I was inferior. It took me well over 10 years to get over those feelings. I realized, after all, I can only be myself. Nothing more, nothing less. My master said to me before passing away in 1974, `It takes a lot of patience to craft bamboo, so you need a wife with lots of patience.' He said this as he introduced me to the woman who was to become my wife. I owe him a great debt."

In 1967, Abe inherited his father's bamboo basket business. Less than a decade later, he was admitted to the Japan Traditional Craft Arts Exhibition and became a full member by 1980. He has won numerous prizes and served as a judge for important regional shows. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Beppu City Museum, the city where he was born, and has been exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

Anonymous said...

Bamboo is one of the last forms of artistic material that must be worked only by hand, the same was it was centuries ago.
Says artist Fujinuma Noboru:

"Unlike the ceramist, for whom the fires of the kiln play an
important role in the outcome, the bamboo artist bears full responsibility for every step of the creative process. Without splitting the bamboo and working through each of the various steps oneself, one cannot get the 'feel' of each individual bamboo culm and thus know for what kind of piece it will be best suited.
And there are no shortcuts in bamboo, there is no way to mechanize the process."


Anonymous said...

Reading more about bamboo

Bamboo is an exacting medium for the artist. A true artist of bamboo
"bears full responsibility for every step of the creative process"
according to Fujinuma Noboru.
"Without splitting the bamboo and working through each of the various steps oneself," he explains, "one cannot get the 'feel" of each individual bamboo culm and know for what kind of piece it will be best suited. And there are no shortcuts in bamboo; there is no way to mechanize the process."

Although Japanese bamboo artists may be on their own in creating a
basket or sculpture, they are not working in a void. Most artists become masters of bamboo only after years or decades of demanding
apprenticeship. In a traditional arrangement a senior artist would take on a number of live-in students who would assist with works produced in quantity while learning the master's techniques through observation.

Students might live in or near the master's household for ten years or
more, working ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week, with little or
no pay and almost no space to call their own. The students would not be allowed to touch bamboo at all for the first year or two, instead
spending their days cleaning house, running errands, and serving tea.
Even after the students were llowed to handle bamboo they would rarely receive direct instruction from the master, and impertinent questions were considered a mark of laziness. Instead, the students would learn primarily through quiet observation of the procedures and techniques of the master.

Because of Japan's well-established and lengthy apprenticeship system it is possible to trace the transmission of bamboo artistry through generations of master-student encounters. Bamboo art over these years has been marked by innovation and richness.

From its beginnings as a skill-driven artisanal occupation of breathtaking technical prowess to an art form of rare amplitude and expression, bamboo work has been reenvisioned and transformed by generations of dedicated artists, each producing exciting new work drawn from the lessons of artists who have come before.


Anonymous said...

QUOTE from


(b. 1932)

According to Japanese custom, only one son of each generation is permitted to inherit the family tradition. Forty-eight years ago, Hayakawa Shokosai V was chosen by his father to learn the craft. The artist is the fifth-generation descendant of Shokosai I, who was the first bamboo artist to sign his work.

In 2003, Shokosai V was named a Living National Treasure in bamboo arts. Two years later, he received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government. His work is housed at Tokyo's National Museum of Modern Art, the Agency of Cultural Affairs, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, and Ise Shrine, the state guesthouse in Kyoto where visiting dignitaries reside.

Of his work with bamboo, Hayakawa says, "Let me tell you the truth. I was not at first fond of this art. I did not consider myself skilled enough. But I could not stand the idea of terminating the artist line of our family. After five or six years of hard training, I made my first bamboo basket. The excitement of creating it was unforgettable."

"I realized that the work is really a reflection of inner self. If you try to over-manipulate bamboo to make a shape, the shape becomes unnatural or even breaks by force. I began to realize that just as we have feelings, so does bamboo. I constantly talk and listen to it now."

Anonymous said...

QUOTE from

HIGASHI Takesonosai


"A writer uses words to create magic," Higashi once said. "I use bamboo."

Born in Kyoto and apprenticing to Kaneko Chikkosai in 1931, the artist's speciality is basket making with an architectural flavor. His work incorporates susudake, or smoked bamboo from the rafters of farm houses over 150 years old, non-plaited techniques, and other inventions of his own.

Prolifically honored, with entrance into Nitten 28 times and full membership in the Japan Craft Arts Association in 1994, Higashi won the Prince Takamatsu Commemorative Prize in 1995 and had numerous solo exhibitions throughout Japan. In 2002, Lloyd Cotsen and Robert Coffland published a book on his life and artistic career.

When asked, at the age of 83, about his continuing commitment to bamboo, he noted that his vision of what he wanted to say in his art had grown stronger as he grew older.

"A great work is a combination of artistic beauty and technical excellence, but a masterpiece adds another quality that is a reflection of you as a person," he said. "My goal as an artist is to leave such pieces when I leave this world."

Anonymous said...

Recent excavations indicate that utilitarian woven bamboo baskets date back in Japan to 10,000-300 B.C.E. Bamboo flower baskets of Japanese and foreign origin from the 6th and 7th centuries and used for Buddhist altars survive in substantial quantities.

In China, the earliest baskets made specifically for cut flowers were produced during the 12th-14th centuries.

Examples of these came to Japan during the Muromachi period (1333-1573), and thus began a long tradition of using woven bamboo to hold flowers. These were typically placed in the tokonoma (alcove) paired with a painting or calligraphy as a temporary tribute to a particular event season.

Traditionally, baskets such as these were used for composing decorative arrangements reflective of the changing of the seasons and the simple elegance of nature in the Japanese home.

Both traditional and modern Japanese bamboo baskets are made by artists who have been trained in the intricate techniques of splitting, stripping, polishing, weaving, and knotting.

The typical training period to become an independent artist lasts for about ten years, giving rise to the "Ten years to split bamboo," suggesting the extreme importance of mastering the fundamental techniques before even making a single basket.

Basket making is one of Japan's traditional craft-art forms in which pupils still learn by becoming apprentices. Form, texture and overall balance are all carefully considered by the bamboo craftsman in order to enhance the natural intrinsic beauty of bamboo.


Anonymous said...

QUOTE from

HONDA Syoryu

(b. 1951)

Honda began his career studying bamboo basket making for flower arranging but the limitations of this centuries-old genre constrained his creativity. An innovator, he crafts dramatic, undulating sculpture that demonstrates his fascination with line, volume, and space. Seamless lengths of braided bamboo, dyed in warm shades of tobacco, gold, and bronze, resemble leather or metal. The artist is a master at tight ajiro plaiting, a technique he has adapted from generations of Japanese bamboo box makers.

For years his artistic career came to a halt because of the lack of interest in bamboo artists among Japanese collectors. To earn a living, he worked long hours, seven days a week, filling wholesale orders for simple bamboo flower baskets. Recently, after many rejections from Japan's bamboo establishment, Honda has begun to achieve recognition in his home country and in the West.

A finalist for the Cotsen Bamboo Prize in 2000, 2002, and 2004, Honda's work is now part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Mint Museum, and the Ruth and Sherman Lee Institute for Japanese Art.

Gabi Greve said...

Es gibt einen Ausspruch des Meisters [Bashô]:
„Über die Kiefer lerne von der Kiefer,
über den Bambus lerne vom Bambus!“

Das besagt: „Befreie dich von deiner subjektiven Willkür!“ ...

Lernen bedeutet hier, dass man ganz in eine Sache hineinschlüpft und mit ihr eins wird ... Wie sehr es einem Dichter beispielsweise auch gelingen mag, eine Sache in ihrer konkreten Gestalt genau zu beschreiben: wenn diese poetische Empfindung nicht der inneren Natur dieser Sache selbst entstammt, dann bilden die Sache und der Dichter eine Dualität und keine Einheit, und die poetische Empfindung erlangt keine Lauterkeit.

Sie ist nichts anderes als ein Kunstgriff, der der Willkür entspringt.

Dohô Hattori

Anonymous said...

morning spectacle -
bright-colored bamboos attract
a playful child

dry bamboos click
under my weary footsteps -
long and winding road

Ao-Suzume, Manila

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

ukifushi ya take no ko to naru hito no hate

the fate of a person:
bamboo shoots

Matsuo Basho

Tr. Barnhill

Basho age 48
For Kogoo, Lady Kogo no Tsubone 小督の局 (her grave in Saga)

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

uguisu ya take no ko yabu ni oi o naku

this bush warbler -
in a grove of bamboo shoots
it sings of old age

Matsuo Basho

Tr. Gabi Greve

Basho and the uguisu

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho - take no ko

takenoko ya / osanaki toki no / e no susabi

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho and SASA bamboo

sasa no tsuyu hakama ni kakeshi shigeri kana

more about hakama

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho and Sasa bamboo

takauna ya / shizuku mo yoyo no / sasa no tsuyu

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

takenoko ya kooji o oshimu kaki no soto

these bamboo shoots -
outside the hedge that guards
the sweet tangerines

about hedges

Anonymous said...

quote Japan Times
To know bamboo is to know Asia — and a whole lot of Japanese

In March, while preparing my taxes, I purchased a box of paper clips with the brand name “Tetonbo.” Tetonbo, or, more familiarly, 竹とんぼ (taketonbo, a “bamboo-copter” or “bamboo dragonfly”), is a gadget made to fly by spinning the shaft rapidly between the palms of your hands and quickly releasing it. Believed to have originated in China around 400 B.C., it may very well be the world’s oldest type of flying toy.

This got me to thinking about another childhood favorite with bamboo in the name, the 竹馬 (takeuma, a “bamboo horse,” meaning “stilts”).

A fast-growing plant believed native to East Asia, bamboo (derived from the Malay bambu), is written 竹, which can be read take (kun-yomi) or chiku (on-yomi). Related terms are indicated by the six-stroke classifier 竹冠 (take kanmuri), which is always positioned at the top of a character and looks like this: ⺮

Bamboo has been long recognized for its strength, flexibility and durability, and even in modern times it has found new applications. The filaments in one of the earliest incandescent light bulbs produced by American inventor Thomas Edison were made from a variety of Japanese bamboo called 真竹 (madake).

In ancient times, bamboo implements were at the cutting edge of information technology, used for recording and tallying information, as well as for keeping count. That’s why we have bamboo-derived characters like 筆 (fude, writing brush), and 箱 (hako, box). The 筒 (tsutsu, cylinder) used for 封筒 (fūtō, envelope), reminds us that messages were once rolled up, rather than folded, and transported in tubes.

Even today, housewives keep track of daily expenditures in a 家計簿 (kakeibo, a household account book). Lists of names and addresses are complied in a 名簿 (meibo, directory). Likewise, we find the take-kanmuri in the seki in 本籍 (honseki, one’s registered domicile) and 国籍 (kokuseki, nationality).

Wherever numbers are involved, another bamboo character, 算 (san, calculation), appears in such words as 算数 (sansū, arithmetic), 掛け算 (kakezan, multiplication) and 割り算 (warizan, division), as well as in 第 (dai, used for ordinal numbers, such as 第一 (daiichi, first) and so on. San is also used in 算盤 (soroban, a “calculation plate,” i.e., an abacus). The character 等 (tō) means “class” or “rank,” as in 高等学校 (kōtōgakkō, high school) and 均等 (kintō, equal or uniform). We also see the bamboo classifier in the word 籤 (kuji, lottery).

Bamboo is not only useful, it’s edible, in the form of 筍 (takenoko, bamboo shoots). The empty hollow of bamboo sections can be used in preparing food as well as for carrying it after it’s cooked. Bamboo can also be used to make various utensils. Take 箸 (hashi, chopsticks) and 竹べら (takebera, the bamboo spatula used to scoop steamed rice), as well as 茶筅 (chasen, a bamboo whisk used in the tea ceremony).

The character 築, originally meaning a mud wall with a roof, is used in the verb 築く (kizuku, to build or to amass). It is widely found in words related to building such as 建築士 (kenchikushi, architect) and 新築 (shinchiku, a newly completed building).


Anonymous said...


Split in half and connected end to end, bamboo served from ancient times as water conduits, expressed by the character 管 (kan, a pipe or tube), found in such words as 水管 (suikan, water pipe) and 配管 (haikan, plumbing). In modern times 管理 (kanri, literally “the arrangement of pipes”) has come to mean “management.”

Another use for bamboo was in musical instruments, such as 笛 (fue, a bamboo flute) or 汽笛 (kiteki, a steam whistle), as you would find on an oceangoing vessel.

Want to celebrate a holiday or just let off steam? Try setting off a string of “exploding bamboo,” or 爆竹 (bakuchiku), as firecrackers are called in Chinese-derived Japanese.

Needless to say, bamboo is found in place names and surnames, such as 竹田 (Takeda), 植竹 (Uetake), 竹村 (Takemura), 竹本 (Takemoto), 佐竹 (Satake) and 竹倉 (Takekura), to name a few. The surname written 小竹 — “little bamboo” — can be read as both Kotake and Shino.

In Zen temples, if a person meditating nods off, the priest will awaken him or her with a measured smack from a bamboo rod called a 竹篦 (shippei). From this we get the expression 竹篦返し (shippe(i)-gaeshi, which means “retaliating” or “returning tit for tat”).

The expression 竹に雀 (take ni suzume, a sparrow in the bamboo) means “two things that go well together.” When things don’t match, well, you can say 木に竹を接いだようだ (ki ni take o tsuida yō da, “like bamboo grafted onto a tree”) — that is, to be grossly incongruous.

Some characters can also be found in which the relation to bamboo is somewhat more tenuous, such as the verb 答える (kotaeru, to reply or answer). Another is 笑う (warau, to laugh). What’s the connection between bamboo and replying, or laughing? To investigate, I consulted a 漢和辞典 (kanwa jiten, a lexicon of classical Chinese that gives the etymology of kanji).

In the former case, it was explained, replies to messages were written on pieces of bamboo. For the latter, it seems that in ancient times, the word for “laugh” happened to be a homonym for a certain type of thin bamboo.

Learning the linguistic ins and outs of bamboo might not be simple, but then again, maybe it is. After all, bamboo even finds its way into the character 簡 (kan) in 簡単 (kantan, simple).


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

There is another legend about a growing walking stick told by Yanagida Kunio.

takezue 竹杖 bamboo stick of bamboo

In Hyogo, 兵庫県, Itami 伊丹町
at the temple 妙宣寺 Myosen-Ji around 1355 Priest Daikaku 大覚僧正 (1297 - 1364) of the Nichiren sect planted his walking stick into the ground.
It became bamboo, but a special sort called sakasadake 逆さ竹 "upside down bamboo", with its branches hanging down. A kind of hachiku 淡竹 bamboo.

A similar legend is also told in Niigata at temple 西方寺 Saiho-Ji about the Nichiren priest 親鸞 Shinran.

sakadake 逆竹 Saka-Dake


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

takenuri shikki 竹塗漆器 bamboo items coated with laquer
Through many layers of laquer, the beauty of bamboo is enhanced.
This type of bamboo craft is not very common in Japan. It was developed by the makers of armor for the Samurai of the 庄内藩 Shonai domaine, by 阿部竹翁 Abe Chikuo. He learned the craft in Edo from 橋本市蔵 Hashimoto Ichizo
Many items have the ragged beauty of old, dry bamboo 枯れ竹, imbued with the Japanese asthetics of wabi and sabi わび さび.
To show the beauty of the chikusetsu 竹節 bamboo joints is a special treat.
Special tools are used, for example
nezumi no hige 鼠の髭 beard hair of a mouse and kujirahigebera 鯨髭べら spatula from "whale beard" baleen

Shonaizao 庄内竿 Shonai fishing rod, Shonai bamboo rod

Tsuruoka mingei 鶴岡民芸 folk art from Tsuruoka - Yamagata

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

chasen 茶筅 / 茶筌 / 茶せん tea whisk from bamboo

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

sakasadake 逆さ竹
9 legends to explore
A family had killed a Rokubu to get his money. His 杖 walking staff stuck in the ground and begun to grow upside-down.

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Yamagata
鳥海山の筍,月山の筍 bamboo shoots from Mount Chokaisan and Mount Gassan
筍 19 legends to explore

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Legends about bamboo shoots 筍 / 竹の子 伝説 takenoko densetsu

鳥海山の筍,月山の筍 bamboo shoots from Mount Chokaisan and Mount Gassan

Gabi Greve said...

Yabugami 藪神 / ヤブガミ Kami of the thicket,
Kami of the bamboo grove


Gabi Greve said...

‘Dwarf Bamboo’ozasa小篠, or just sasa
small Sasa bamboo

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