On the 24th of April 2018, Adamu Shachū visited Tango Tanimura at his atelier in Takayama, Nara.
Tanimura-san gave us a detailed presentation on his family tradition and the craft of making chasen, before showing us the process for making a chasen. We all then had hands-on experience making
chasen at each stage of the process. The 7 steps are:
1. Kata-gi 片木 - Finely shave the outer skin of the bamboo. Divide the bamboo above the node into 16 equal sections and remove the pith from the inner side of the bamboo. This leaves the sections around 1mm thick
2. Ko-wari 小割 - Divide the bamboo into smaller tines according to the style of chasen being made
3. Aji-kezuri 味削り - The tines are softened in hot water and shaved thinner on the inside. The method differs according to type of chasen being made
4. Men-tori 面取 - The tips of the outer tines are rounded to prevent matcha from sticking to the tines
5. Shita-ami 下編み - Thread is woven in and out between the tines to separate the outer tines
from the inner tines
6. Uwa-ami 上編み - Thread is woven a further two times around the chasen
7. Shi-age 仕上げ - The inner tines are twisted to give the chasen its final shape, then the finishing touches are made by the craftsperson.
The Adamu Shachū folk also collected a pretty healthy order of black bamboo (kuro-chiku) chasen from Tanimura-san. Black bamboo is a new material used for chasen. As the preferred chasen of the different schools of chanoyu were decided before black bamboo was in use, it's hard to get traction for the material. Adamu Shachū prefers chasen made from black bamboo as the appearance of each piece is unique and black bamboo last far longer than either white or smoked bamboo chasen.
Chasen and hishaku are the two items that can't be substituted in chanoyu. The skill and time required to carve each piece is considerable. Chasen made outside Japan can be bleached white and this process destroys the fibres, making the chasen deteriorate quickly, not to mention the horrible chemical residue. I recommend selecting chasen of high quality and durable black bamboo (kuro-chiku). Money can be saved in other areas of the practice.
Tanimura-san is charming and inviting. He could easily have been a rock star, but instead all that passion and flair is going into his chasen.
"Now whip it
Shape it up
To whip it
Whip it good"
From all of Adamu Shachū, thank you Tanimura-san. You're a legend.
- Adam Sōmu Wojciński, Paris