Bamboo skirts on trees

bamboo skirtNear where the Takano river joins the Kamo river in Kyoto sits the ancient Shimogamo shrine. The main approach to the Shinto shrine is along a wide path through the Tadasu no Mori (the ‘Forest Where Lies are Revealed,’ or the ‘Forest of Correction,’ depending on who you ask). This woodland of broad leaf trees is, apparently, quite rare in modern Japan. Some of the trees are up to 600 years old. And a few of these trees have bamboo skirts.

bamboo skirtsInvestigations into precisely why some of these ancient trees wear skirts revealed little. It seems the bamboo skirts are providing some kind of protection to the trunk of the tree: one local thought that it may be protection from disease. I saw only three trees under bamboo, but I did not fully explore the 12 hectares of national historical site listed forest. The shrine and the forest are of such renown that you will find items such as jigsaw puzzles, mugs, books and prints celebrating them on Amazon.

The only other instances of bamboo skirts on trees that I found online were academic studies detailing experiments to prevent Nipah virus infection in local populations who harvest and consume date palm sap. The bamboo skirts act as a barrier to fruit bats, also fond of the sap, that transmit Nipah virus by contaminating the raw sap with their saliva.

bamboo skirts on trees, Shimogamo shrine, Tadasu no Mori bamboo skirt path1Bamboo skirts aside, the Shimogamo-jinja and Tadasu no Mori is a lovely place to visit should you find yourself in Kyoto. One of my visits coincided with a market day. Numerous local craft stalls at the market had attracted quite a crowd. And still, the place was quiet and subdued. Lovely.

References:

Activated Bamboo Carbon

Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, activated coal, or carbo activatus, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption.” 

activated carbon, activated bamboo charcoalHmmm, so? Bamboo is just one material used to make activated carbon. Activated carbon has special qualities over plain old charcoal. Adsorption is the key here. Adsorption is the binding of molecules or particles to a surface, as distinguished from absorption, the filling of pores in a solid. Activating carbon gives it high degree of microporosity, increasing the surface area so just one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 500 m2.

Activated carbon has many industrial applications, but probably the best known use is medical. The adsorptive qualities can treat some poisonings and overdoses. It’s so important that it appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. For everyday personal use the list of activated bamboo charcoal is extensive: odours, soap, humidity, water filtration, baking, face masks, indigestion, toothpaste, insoles for shoes….

The list of products on Amazon goes on for pages, (but not every item will ship to Australia). Ebay au has a smaller but still diverse range of activated bamboo charcoal products. The most popular products seem to be the air freshening/odour absorbing ones. There is range that comes wrapped in hemp bags – much more attractive than the plain black bag I picked up at the Bamboo Festival. There are some pretty ones on eBay au though, as well as some disguised as dogs. Maybe stuffed dogs in the back windows of cars are really there for a purpose?

The most interesting looking product, I think, is the food-grade powder. Or maybe the tooth and gum powder. With the powder on hand, you could make your bamboo charcoal soap, use it to make bamboo charcoal bread, treat indigestion and certain poisoning events, or whatever you can think of.

In case you are wondering, activated carbon is usually made from charcoal and, increasingly, high-porosity biochar, both of which can be produced with mature bamboo. Two different processes may be used: physical reactivation and chemical activation. There is a Wikipedia entry that explains the processes.

Reference list:
Activated carbon
Adsorption

Bamboo on the Internet for July, 2014 – my picks

bamboo shinguardsBamboo on the Internet for July (and some of June):

  • This deserves to come first. A wonderfully simple and effective idea: Bamboo shinguards for soccer players. Time is running out for your opportunity to invest in the project on Kickstarter (18 August).
bamboo modern japanese

Bamboo in modern Japanese architecture. Click on the image for more.

bamboo building

  • Inspired by tepees? This triangular modular hotel made with bamboo is getting lots of attention. The design is a flexible system allowing the bamboo structure to be expanded horizontally and vertically, they say. It’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t feel every movement within the building.
  • Another take on expand-as-needed architecture is inspired by bamboo scaffolding.

bamboo scaffolding buildingJust add more floors as required, using waste from other offices. “Each floor is made from an interlaced network of tube framing, with construction building materials being sourced from waste material produced by the offices, namely paper and plastics.

  • One for the painters: here is a review of a bamboo brush box. It gets a 4.8 (out of 5) star rating on Amazon.

bamboo hospital

  • A new hospital in India is clad with bamboo. The bamboo “acts as a natural insulator and allows the hospital to do away with air conditioning in common areas such as lobbies and receptionThis resulted in saving electricity and reducing maintenance cost.” It looks good too.
  • Here is a short video clip about the construction of a traditional Hong Kong bamboo installation. The ‘flower plaque’ is part of the Smithsonian Institutes 2014 Folklife Festival. Learn more about flower plaques here and here.

zchair

  • Precision computerised joinery and high-tech adhesives are all that hold these bamboo chairs together. There’s also some nesting tables of a similar construction.
  • In case you missed the YouTube vids of the awesome rocket festival in Northern Thailand here is a link. Not for the faint hearted.

woodford bamboo tunnel

  • Colossal has published photos of Wang Wen-Chih’s finished bamboo entry tunnel (mentioned here back in October) at the Woodford Folk Festival site.

 

Bamboo and anions

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsAfter the fabulous bamboo lunch one fine weekend in Chiba, the diner owner suggested we visit a bamboo forest nearby. He said a doctor from a local private hospital recommends that his patients take a wander through a bamboo forest, particularly those who cannot get a positive diagnosis for their ills. The negative ions, anions, produced in a bamboo forest are said to be beneficial for health. It is a very popular notion in Taiwan too. For example, the Lemidi Hotel at Xitou, Taiwan, uses the nearby bamboo forest as a selling point:

The hotel is rich in anion as high as 7,000 units and can help metabolism, elimination of fatigue, soothe and calm emotions; the anions and rhythm of pleasure result in the most valuable medicine. While you are at it, you will feel more youthful and marvel at the wonders of the nature!

anions, negative ions, bambo o anionsThe bamboo forest at Damyang certainly makes a big deal about it too. At the small stone cottage that serves as the ticket office, there is a large LED display to tell the freshly arrived, among other things, the temperature, the humidity, and the anion measurement. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now anions are crossing my radar in the most surprising places and products. A quick Google search reveals websites extolling the virtues of the anions present in bamboo charcoal for bed sheets, sanitary pads, yarn, health-caring quilts, bamboo charcoal soap…. and that’s just the first page.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsWe walked in a bamboo forest after our marvellous bamboo lunch, as recommended by the owner of the roadside diner. It is a lovely place, beside a small established dam. This bamboo forest lacked the crowds and well-trodden paths of Juknokwon and Arashiyama. It was an abandoned commercial forest by the look of it. There were a few decrepit shacks, an old kiln, and a general atmosphere of damp decay.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsOn arriving at our next stop I noticed a slight squelchy feeling between my toes. Thinking there was some mud there, shoes were removed for inspection. Not mud. Leeches, from the bamboo forest.

The forsaken outhouse, pictured on the left, now features its own built-in bamboo hand-rail, for assisting that rise from the squat.

The best bamboo lunch

Reflecting on the recent trip to South Korea and Japan, there is one meal that is a particular stand-out for me. The meal featured bamboo in many guises. My hosts in Tokyo kindly took me about in Chiba one fine day, with a plan to eat at this roadside diner. One of the special bamboo ‘sets’ were ordered for each of us. A tray with dishes arrived. Then the rice, with bamboo of course, in its own hot-pot type bowl with rustic wooden lid.

bamboo meal, bamboo

On the tray were pickled bamboo, soup with bamboo shoots, a selection of other pickles, and a glass of plum juice, all made by the farmer who grew them. Then came the sticky potato. And the deer stew. That’s pickled kiwi fruit in the red dish.

bamboo meal, bamboo

This sticky potato dish is made from the wild tuber found in the mountains nearby. It hardly resembles conventional potato in any way except perhaps colour. Savoury flavourings were placed on top on the slimy goop in the bowl and we mixed them in ourselves at the table. Delicious. As was the deer stew. Probably the richest flavoured deer stew I have tried in Japan. Then came the bamboo tempura.

bamboo meal, bamboo

Normally I don’t eat wheat flour, but this was worth making an exception for. Perfect crispy tempura batter. Perfectly textured bamboo shoot awaiting inside.

bamboo meal, bambooIt was the Takean branch that we dined at (I think). The fridge was stocked with local bamboo shoots, and all manner of locally made pickles. The freezer stored blueberries, and more bamboo shoots from the recent spring season. The shelves displayed more local produce and products. The owner is, quite rightly, very proud of the fine quality food he uses to turn out the excellent dishes we were so fortunate to sample. He told us he makes everything from scratch. No English spoken here, and you won’t see an English menu. Take a Japanese speaker. You’ll probably need them to at least get the directions from the website.

bamboo meal, bamboo

The freezer on the left is a fish pond.

 

Damyang Bamboo Museum

TheBM lift doors bamboo museum at Damyang is quite a treat for anyone with more than a passing interest in the uses of bamboo. One room is dedicated to an exhibit about how bamboo grows, but the museum concentrates on displays that cover every imaginable use of bamboo, and then some. Even the lift doors have a bamboo motif.

Many of the displays, unfortunately for me, remain a mystery, as the museum provides very little interpretation in English. Given the number of other native English speakers I saw during my visit (none), this is hardly surprising.

One whole room is devoted to photos, graphics, and written information about the production and benefits of bamboo salt. But that’s all I can tell you about it really, as only Korean is used for interpretation. I’m sure it’s fascinating.

bamboo museumThere are several souvenir shops attached to the museum. Each one offers a slightly different range of bamboo products. They all smell wonderful – like freshly dried bamboo, a grassy, woody, friendly, comforting kind of scent.

The bamboo museum sits among gardens, nurseries, sculptures, and, of course, its own little bamboo forest.bamboo museum Bamboo museum Bamboo museum

I’ve got stacks more photos of displays within the museum, but inserting photos into the blog using a 7 in. tablet is testing my patience unnecessarily. I am on holiday, after all.

bamboo charcoal, bamboo museumThe bamboo museum in Damyang is short walk from the bus station and a very long walk from the bamboo forest. From Gwangju, a good base to visit Damyang, take local bus 311 from outside the Gwangju bus terminal. Where else might you see a bamboo charcoal dividing wall?

Juknokwon – the bamboo forest, Damyang

As you climb up the stone stairs at the entrance of Juk-nok-won, relax and feel the breeze blow among trees and refresh your tired body and soul. Walking in the bamboo woods, with the crisp sound of bamboo leaves and sunlight spreading over you, is an uplifting feeling. (From the official brochure).

bamboo forestBamboo swaying gently in the breeze, broad paths to stroll along, small pagodas for resting… It all sounds peaceful and idyllic. The bamboo forest at Damyang is beautiful, but peaceful it is not.

The day I visited the bamboo forest there was quite a crowd. Yes, there was a major festival in full swing beside the forest, but a bloke playing music with an amplifier (not bamboo) to promote his CDs? It was really loud. And the music was a bizarre Korean interpretation of old-style Western crooner-type songs.

bamboo forestWhen I did get far enough away from him to be comfortable, I spotted a pagoda through the bamboo and went over for a short rest. There were some old women sitting about. I thought they were resting too. No. They were exercising. To music, of course.

And, similarly to Taiwan, people like to stroll around in nature carrying, and sharing with everyone, all manner of music. No, there is not enough noise in the world – we need to make more.

bamboo forest

Where else might you find a traditional house with an electric massage chair?

There are lots of birds inside the forest. In between the family groups, the girls in high heels, the lovers, and the sharers of music, there are small pockets of peace. Within these pockets, birds can be heard. By standing still, the birds can be seen too, hopping around in the bamboo leaf litter that covers the ground, flitting from culm to culm.

It’s all too brief though.