Sustainable Japan Magazine

Bamboo products used by the Japanese since ancient times are full of wisdom for improving our lives

July 26, 2021

GOODS

WRITER: AI SAKAMOTO

This bamboo toothbrush is organic and also makes use of bamboo nodes, which have few other applications. The product is environmentally conscious right down to the paper for its wrapping, made from bamboo offcuts.
PHOTO: MIYO-ORGANIC-

Chikuno Cubes deodorize and control humidity. A single cube is effective for a room of up to 6 mats in size (10 square meters), and they are also pet-friendly.
PHOTO: CHIKUNO LIFE

Bamboo is attracting attention as an alternative to plastic and wood. Light, durable and easy to process, bamboo has been used since ancient times in Japan for daily necessities such as baskets and colanders, as well as craft items and building materials. Bamboo tools have even been found in Jomon Period ruins from approximately 4,000 years ago.

Bamboo is an attractive material because it reproduces and grows so rapidly. Once a year, new shoots emerge from nodes in rhizomes underground, and they can grow into mature bamboo in just a few months. Sometimes bamboo can grow more than a meter per day, and be ready to harvest in just three years. Compared to wood, its regeneration cycle is very fast.

Bamboo grows to harvestable size in roughly three years, so it has a much faster regeneration cycle than wood.
PHOTO: MIYO-ORGANIC-

However, as plastics became common in the period of rapid economic growth in the 1960s, demand for bamboo declined, and it is only in recent years that bamboo has been reevaluated as a sustainable, decomposable material.

In the movement to find new uses for bamboo, including as biomass fuel or for bamboo-based paper and other next-generation materials, one curious new product was released in December: a bamboo toothbrush from MiYO-organic.

“In the winter of 2018, while I was on a business trip, I noticed the plastic toothbrush in the hotel and how it was used just twice — once in the evening and once in the morning — before being discarded. It occurred to me that this was happening all over the world, and a massive amount of garbage was being generated. That was the beginning, and I decided to take the opportunity to make a toothbrush that was comfortable to use, fashionable and environmentally friendly,” said Miyo Yamamoto, the brand’s founder.

Miyo Yamamoto, founder of the brand MiYO-organic
PHOTO: MIYO-ORGANIC-

Made from carefully selected mōsō tortoise-shell bamboo, the toothbrush is neither colored nor painted. It is made with an organic method that uses no bleach or fungicides. The nylon for the bristles is BPA-free. The head is small enough to suit Japanese mouths, and the reasonable price allows for everyday use.

Other unique new products include some using traditional bamboo charcoal for its deodorizing and moisture-absorbing qualities. Chikuno Life’s small deodorant Chikuno Cubes have sides dotted with countless small hexagonal holes. By shaping powdered bamboo charcoal into a honeycomb structure to increase surface area, its deodorizing and moisture-absorbing effects are significantly enhanced. In addition to having a modern design suited to contemporary lifestyles, the product can also be maintained by simply putting it out in the sun once a year.

In recent years, untended bamboo forests have spread uncontrollably, crowding out surrounding vegetation. That problem, as well as the problem of our need for more sustainable materials, could well find a common solution in the future.


竹製品には、生活をよくする知恵が詰まっています。

プラスチックや木材の代替物として、竹が注目を集めている。軽くて丈夫、加工しやすいので、日本では古くから竹を活用してきた。その魅力は生育の早さにある。約3年で加工用に使え、一般の木に比べ、再生サイクルの早い循環型の素材と言える。

〈MiYO-organic-〉の竹歯ブラシは着色も塗装もなし。ブラシ部分のナイロン素材には、環境ホルモンの一種と言われるBPA(ビスフェノールA)不使用のものを採用している。

一方、消臭や調湿に効果のある、伝統的な竹炭を使ったユニークな商品もある。「CHIKUNO CUBE / AIR FOR」は、粉末にした竹炭をハニカム構造にして表面積を増やすことで、消臭・調湿の効果を格段に上げているという。

近年、放置された竹林が、その強い繁殖力から無秩序に広がり、周囲の植生に影響を与える「竹害」が問題視されている。サステナブルな素材としてのニーズの高まりと、竹林の整備。この2つを解決していくことが、今後の課題となるだろう。

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