The Decline of Igusa Craftsmen and the Encounter with Straw Craftsmen: How the World's First Igusa Sphere Was Made


Replacement by Chinese rushes
Since the peak of the bubble economy, we have been swallowed up by changes in the housing environment.
Influenced by changes in preferences such as cheap, disposable, and easy and convenient
Tatami, which is considered to be more labor-intensive and costly than flooring, has been
seriously affected and its distribution volume has been drastically reduced.
Then, trading companies that grow rushes in China and export them to Japan appeared.
As the demand for tatami decreased, Chinese rushes began to replace domestic rushes.
In recent years, the market share of Chinese rushes has increased to 80% while that of domestic rushes has increased to 20%. 

A New Form of Igusa
We would like to create a new value of Igusa.
I would like to create a sense of presence by having people put it in the lobby or guest room of a house or lodging facility.
I want them to be placed in the lobby or guest room of a house, at the entrance to a lodging facility, etc., to create a sense of presence.
We want people to see it, smell it, touch it, and feel it.
I designed the sphere in the hope of creating a new "place" for tatami.

The Absence of Igusa Craftsmen and a New Encounter
Although we had decided on a design, the number of craftsmen was decreasing along with the number of rushes.
There were no places that could actually make a sample for us, and we had to keep asking and getting rejected.
One day in May 2020, I found a website of a straw craft preservation society and immediately contacted them.
By chance, he told me that he had talked about using rushes instead of straw in his company a few days ago.
They agreed to make a sample for us.

The Current Situation of Straw Craft Workers
Mr. Sakai, a straw craftsman, devised an event to liven up the Iijima area in Kamiina County, Nagano Prefecture.
He has been planning and preparing for a rice bale marathon using rice straw, which comes from rice, a local specialty.
He was planning and preparing for a rice bale marathon using rice straw from the local specialty rice.
We thought it would be easy to prepare the rice bales by asking local farmers.
When I asked a nearby farmer about rice bales, he told me that notHe focused on training craftsmen and making it a business.
Now, he has 30 aspiring straw craft workers.

  Mr. Sakai's skills are recognized by the Japan Sumo Association.

His skills are also recognized by the Japan Sumo Association, and he makes the rice bales used in the ring at the six main tournaments of the Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Japan Sumo Association has recognized Mr. Sakai's skills and entrusts him with the rice bales used in the sumo ring at the six main tournaments held annually.
In addition, he is also involved in making the rings for the sumo stables and pilgrimage tournaments.


The next step after this place is the world's first.
Through this encounter with Mr. Sakai, we were able to make a prototype with straw.
At the same time as the straw trial, we sent him rush grass to start with, and had him make a rope.
He was able to feel the difference between straw and rushes in terms of hardness, thickness, and ease of bending and stretching.
Then we had them make a prototype sphere out of rushes.
It was the first time for them to make a sphere of their own size, so the trial production was more difficult than they expected.
It took more time than expected to make the sphere.
I used all my intuition and experience to imagine the size of the requested sphere.
The angle of the sphere was determined by intuition and experience.
A completely handmade rush grass sphere was completed using Japanese rush grass.