Beautifully, freely.


A bamboo artist who unlocks the possibilities of bamboo.


Like bamboo, flexible and firm.



When you step foot into the bamboo forest, the wind whistles. On a perfectly clear winter’s day, bamboo stands upright, long and tall, yielding gently as if in slow motion. Its roots are buried firmly in the ground, so even if it sways, it will quietly return to its original place, and maintain its elegant shape. It is very much reminiscent of Nakatomi’s way of living.


The ruins of Oka Castle are on top of a modest mountain in Oita prefecture’s Okubungotaketa. These castle ruins, where beautiful stone walls remain, command a view of Mt. Aso and the Kuju mountains. The area is also known for being a place where the famous composer Taki Rentarou spent much of his youth.


The bamboo forest is found beyond these castle ruins. The forest has been borrowed and cared for by Nakatomi since the time that he moved to Taketa.


Nakatomi, who is from Osaka, and graduated from Waseda University’s business school, has a story to tell about his life before moving to Taketa as a bamboo artist. However, that is not to say it is one filled with twists and turns; rather, the flow of his life felt so natural, as if he was simply following a path that was completely pre-planed. At least, that is the gentle impression that one receives from his telling of the story.


It was at Waseda University that Nakatomi, whose prior life bore absolutely no connection to craftsmanship, became connected to bamboo. After joining a university art club, he came to have an interest in ceramics in a quite random way. At that time, his Senior was a potter and he tried to follow the path of ceramics, but he didn’t quite have the knack for it. He broadened the breadth of his artistic interest and he also tried his hand at lacquer work, as well as glass work. For reason’s unknown, he was being drawn deeper into the world of traditional craft. Though he was in his final year of university and he was expected to start job hunting, he did no such thing. He resolved to search for opportunities for craftsmanship instead.


Then, in a moment that could perhaps be called fate, he encountered an exhibition of bamboo works at a department store. It happened to be the solo exhibition of Tokuzo Shono, the son of Shonoshounsai, a revered bamboo artist. He had a powerful interaction with the bamboo pieces, and was moved by the pictures of Shounsai’s work. Around the same period, he watched a demonstration by a bamboo craftsman, this caused him to become conscious of bamboo being a creative resource. It was this same craftsman who told Nakatomi that there was a bamboo craft college in Beppu. It was there to which he journeyed next.


After studying the basics of bamboo craft at The Oita Prefecture Bamboo Craft Training Centre for two years, he became the apprentice of Shoryu Honda. Normally, it is not such a smooth process upon graduation. It is unheard of to immediately find a bamboo master at whose side one can learn from, to say nothing of actually finding a job. What is more, at each crucial juncture, people appeared to give him the advice and assistance that he needed. Nakatomi describes this series of fortunate events as “happenstance”.


Through happenstance, he met a woman who owned a shop selling items made from bamboo, and she gave him a job. This same woman introduced him to a man who just so happened to be a tea master, who taught him the ways of the tea ceremony, and then, finally, Nakatomi heard by chance that a bamboo master with a connection to the shop was looking for an assistant. Happenstance is not pure coincidence. Rather, one cannot help but think that these moments were pulled to Nakatomi by his essential energy. Regarding this charm, it is the result of him forging straight ahead, without doubting the instincts, feelings and ideas that rise from within him. Nakatomi never overlooked or failed to pay heed to inner signs that others might ignore. When he is aware of those inner signs, he moves naturally ahead, unnerved by the words of others. Hidden inside is a flowing calm whose core strength you cannot help but feel.


“The best part about working with bamboo is the ability to live at your own pace. If my hands stop, so does my work. It is really liberating. I believe trusting my instincts to work with bamboo was the right choice.”
Without hesitation and by following one’s instincts, the potential of one’s future will open up.


“It isn’t typical of bamboo. But it is something that can only be made from bamboo.” He creates his artworks like this.



After working under the guidance of Honda, he went independent in 2005. While he entered this world because he liked traditional crafts, he began to move away from traditional models.

“I didn’t want to get stuck into a mold. I couldn’t find models that really fit with me. Moreover, I was young at the time”, he laughs. As he was young, he rebelled against the traditional uses of bamboo.

Whilst he felt trepidation and anxiety after going solo, he challenged himself to make atypical objects from bamboo. It was hard to believe that these first objects were made from bamboo. As they were geometrical artworks with no practical use, they were purely artistic creations made to stir the senses with novelty, from a deft hand. He had opened a new door inside himself, he had found new uses for bamboo, and released this raw material’s potential.


From that time on, he took, “It isn’t typical of bamboo. But it is something that can only be made from bamboo” as the foundation for his work. The unique world of objects that Nakatomi created began to catch the eyes of people from abroad as unparalleled examples of Japanese bamboo art. Starting with an exhibition in Boston in 2006, his works have been presented in New York, London, Paris, and other galleries across the four corners of the globe.

さらにリッツカールトン京都、リッツカールトン東京、福岡空港JALVIPラウンジ、最近ではANAインターコンチネンタル別府リゾート&スパのアートも手掛けている。2013年には、元サッカー日本代表中田英寿さんの日本文化再発見プロジェクト『REVALUE NIPPON PROJECT』に参加し、デザイナーの森田恭通さんとコラボしたバンブーシャンデリアは、圧倒的な美しさと繊細さで人々を魅了した。

In addition, his works have been displayed at The Ritz Carlton in Kyoto and Tokyo, Fukuoka Aiport JAL VIP Lounge, and more recently, he was commissioned by ANA International Resort and Spa Beppu. In 2013, Nakatomi participated in former soccer player Nakata Hidetoshi’s Revalue Nippon Project, where he collaborated with the designer Morita Yasumichi. Together, they created a bamboo chandelier that charmed the audience with its overwhelming beauty and delicacy.

BAMBOO CHANDELIER "Infinite Shadow" NAKATOMI HAJIME x Yasumichi Morita x Hidetoshi Nakata

BAMBOO CHANDELIER "Infinite Shadow" NAKATOMI HAJIME x Yasumichi Morita x Hidetoshi Nakata


Nestled in Taketa, where time flows slowly


“In the countryside, time passes by slowly. It’s ideal for dealing with bamboo at a leisurely pace”, says Nakatomi. Upon recommendation by Tokuzo Shono, Nakatomi moved to Oita prefecture’s Taketa in 2012. The mayor of Taketa city, Katsuji Shuto, is enthusiastic about inviting bamboo artists to Taketa. There, he rented an old Japanese-style house, got married and had children. He took a section of Taketa Community Centre, housed in a former middle-school schoolhouse, and turned it into a studio where he continued to make pieces destined for both the domestic and international scene. As there were good bamboo forests in the area, he borrowed one. There are few bamboo craftsmen who cultivate bamboo, chop it down, and drain its oil, but he is one of them.


“These days, this is the only way to do it. In the past, you simply made one call to a bamboo supplier and they would deliver it to you, but these days such suppliers have decreased in number, and there are no successors. Here in Taketa, the water, the wind, and the air are clean. You can grow good bamboo”, says Nakatomi, “it is a natural process”.


I wonder where he is heading next: “Though I do not know the future, I know for sure that I want to make a workshop here”, he replies with a smile. One can picture him here surrounded by the abundance of Taketa, cultivating bamboo, carrying out his daily life with a completed workshop and the novel pieces he dreams up.



“Even if you do not use the most difficult techniques, I really believe you can create beautiful objects. With just the simplest, most basic techniques you can do a lot. I want to create objects that are pared down to their bare essence.”

This craftsman with a quiet-soul will surely, in the near future, once more show the world bamboo pieces that are truly original.