Suikaen (翠華園) is the atelier of master bamboo whisk craftsman Tanimura Yasuburo in the Village of Takayama of Nara Prefecture. The studio traces its roots back five centuries, to the golden age of Chanoyu when Tea Master Sen no Rikyu made matcha for Oda Nobunaga, the most powerful lord of Japan in the 16th century.
Inheriting the skill and knowledge to create these whisks from the growth of the bamboo to its natural-drying over two - three years, and finally to the crafting of whisks and scoops, Tanimura-sensei and his family bring you the culmination of centuries of Japanese history and culture.
In addition, to carrying on the multi-year process of creating bamboo whisks from the growth of bamboo to the final touches of each whisk, Tanimura's son Keiichiro and his wife have been exploring ways to adapt and evolve the tradition to a rapidly changing world.
The Tanimura family has also begun teaching us about chasen, their creation and culture... we will be posting these stories here.
Takayama is located in Ikoma city, at the northwestern end of Nara Prefecture, Japan. This idyllic locale has over 5 centuries of history in the crafting of bamboo whisks (chasen). Nine out of ten Japanese-made tea whisks are made in this area where the climate is ideal for growing high quality bamboo. The region's cold, dry winters create a temperature difference between night and day that forces the bamboo to become compressed and tight—perfect for whisks—as they dry out in the winter air.
The process of making a chasen, or bamboo whisk for matcha, begins with growing the right bamboo in the right climate. When the bamboo is 2-3 years old, they are cut during the winter, boiled to remove oil content, dried in the cold winter air (Jan - Feb) at which point the green color begins to disappear, then aged for 2-3 years in storage. This is before the detailed process of actual whisk crafting begins (as illustrated below).