Nobuo Kai  Aso, Kumamoto


Kai is a person who loves making things more than having 3 meals a day”, as described by a local article. 

For 50 years, Kai works as a Dai-ku san* and is still active as a builder.  In 2005, he started crafting small wood objects.  Every day after work, he would bury himself in his woodshop, making craft objects using leftover wood from construction, working late into the night. 


”This is as much fun as building houses”, said Kai.  He decided this would be something nice to keep doing as he ages and may not be able to continue to work on-site as often in later years.

“Daiku” in Japan refers to craftsperson specializes in construction of wood dwellings

Photo by Noriko Masuda

Photo by Noriko Masuda


En tant que constructeur, Kai se retrouve souvent avec d'abondantes usines de construction. Il se lance dans la fabrication artisanale de baguettes avec ces bois parfaitement utilisables et de grande qualité et propose des ateliers. Pourquoi des baguettes? Kai pense que l'on apprendra à apprécier les objets et prend mieux soin d'eux lorsqu'ils sont fabriqués à la main par ses propres efforts. C'est comme créer une connexion émotionnelle, surtout lorsque les baguettes sont quelque chose de si proche de la vie quotidienne des Japonais.

Un forestier respectable local, Hirofumi Yamabe , qui a éclairci et entretenu la forêt des montagnes d'Aso, possède beaucoup de bois de haute qualité «non commercialisable». Certains sont coupés jeunes, certains peuvent être arqués et ne convient pas à la construction. Il a demandé à Kai de peut-être trouver des moyens d'utiliser ces bois parfaitement bons pour créer de nouveaux objets. Kai a depuis insufflé de nouvelles vies pour refuser le bois. Pour en savoir plus sur la foresterie d'Aso ici .

Photo by Noriko Masuda



Kai visited a nursing home and noticed some of the elderly have problem holding spoons after they recovered from strokes. The sense of independency has been greatly affected.  He decided to design a tool to address this problem.  


Kai went home and started prototyping, and after a few iterations, he developed a simple form that provides ease of use with adaptability to standard sizes metal spoons and forks. "Even for people with weak grips, they can hold the spoons naturally. It is created with empathy”, said Kai. And he uses cedar wood left in the mountain that are residual from forest-thinning. The development of this assistive product is a collective effort from the artisan’s desire to help the disabled together with the forester's ethic of “Mottainai”. (The ancient Japanese practice of “wasting nothing”, equivalent to what we call “upcycling” today.)

In 2007, Kai’s patented auxiliary ring received the Wood Design Award from the Forestry Agency of Japan government. 

Photo by Noriko Masuda

TAKETOMBO - the "bamboo dragonfly"

Kai utilizes local material in his craftwork.  Most are quality lumber from forest-thinning, as well as bamboo he harvested from his elderly neighbors' bamboo grove which he helps maintaining. The neighbors are happy to see the craft objects being made out of their bamboo.  

Kai stated that his taketombo can propel as high as 3-stories. They are all carved by hand. 

Kai makes taketombo propellers using bamboo from his neighbor's grove, and it has to be carved thinly and evenly to achieve perfect balance, if not I will not be able to stay spinning. 


Whenever I met a Japanese person and handed out TKTB's business card, I could spot a warm smile from the recipient when they see the logo of a taketombo. Taketombo is an old hand-crafted bamboo toy loaded with nostalgic sentiment with most Japanese. 

Taketombo (translate to "bamboo dragonfly") is a propeller hand-made toy, made with wood or bamboo, dated as far back to Nara or Heian period (8th century).  Nowadays, Japanese children still learn to make taketombo in primary school and fanatics hold tournaments for the highest flight. 

Special thanks to Noriko Masuda for co-authoring stories from Aso.