Blessing of nature
All the materials necessary for weaving baskets can be found in nature, born from earth and returns to earth. There is no waste in this cycle. We at Yama-Biko have focused on the strength, flexibility, and rarity of wild grapes. Vitality of wild grapes are admirable however, as it wraps itself around other trees and cause serious damages, it is a plant that needs to be cut down in order to maintain the forest. Our focus is to up-cycle the unwanted by giving new value.
Life with wild grapes
Wild grape is a deciduous vine of the grape family that grows wild mainly in the high-cool mountainous regions of Asia. Its vines have been used as living tools such as baskets, sandals, and ropes, and its reddish-purple fruits were used for dying, and also could be eaten fresh or cooked. It has been in Japanese people's lives as a natural material that can be used without waste.
Enter the woods
During the rainy season after spring, we go deep into the mountains for grape vines, which are not easily accessible to people.We must be aware of the wild animals such as bears, boars, and deers, and the hunting traps hidden in the woods. We keep on climbing steep slopes with no trails to reach areas where there are many good quality grape vines.
Harvesting the vines
With its thick vines, wild grapes grow by wrapping itself around other trees. When cutting the vines, we do not simply cut them down from the root, they require 20 to 30 years to grow so we climb several dozen meters or more and carefully untangle the vines from other trees. We only cut the minimum necessity to avoid waste, and to ensure the stable harvesting of the grape vines for the following years to come.
The treasure underneath ‘Onigawa’
The vines of wild grapes wear many layers of skin on its 10-centimeter trunk. Only the bark on the surface, called ‘onigawa’ which means extremely thick skin - is carefully removed so as not to damage the thin skin underneath, and the skin underneath is carefully peeled off to be processed into ‘higo’, which is the material for our hand weaving baskets.
Maintain our wild forest.
Because of their strength, wild grapes can wrap around other trees and take their lives. They are considered a nuisance to the forest industry. To protect our forest, moderate cutting is necessary. By helping the environment, we receive the vines for our products.
1121-1 Omachi, Omachi-city, Nagano, 398-0002 Japan