Bamboo products used by the Japanese since ancient times are full of wisdom for improving our lives
July 26, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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。