Japanese art from the Edo period , £9.99
Length: 25.000 cm
Width: 16.500 cm
Purchased from the Royal Anthropological Institute
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Bark basket (saranip)
Ainu, late 19th - early 20th century
From Hokkaidō, Japan
Baskets 'as soft as bags'
Baskets are commonly found in museum collections of Ainu material; they are very light, for easy transport by collectors of artefacts, and for the Ainu, easily replaceable.
This basket, a saranip, is made of the inner bark of a lime tree, although elm, reeds and thin wood splints were also used to make a variety of containers. Twined and woven together, the fibres make a strong fabric and the closing draw-string made saranip particularly suitable for collecting and storing food. Edible wild plants and garden produce were collected by women and dried during the summer months to supplement the winter diet. These practices changed dramatically with the establishment of agriculture at the end of the nineteenth - early twentieth century.
In the words of Neil Gordon Munro, a Scottish physician who lived in Hokkaidō in the 1930s and studied the history and traditions of the Ainu throughout the first half of the twentieth century, 'what are usually called Ainu baskets are mostly as soft as bags'. Ainu basket makers sold them to tourists from the early twentieth century and the craft was vigorously revived in Hokkaidō in the 1990s.
The twined and woven technique was known to all Ainu groups in Hokkaidō and nearby islands, but also to communities living all around the north Pacific rim from coastal Japan to California.
W.W. Fitzhugh and C.O. Dubreuil, Ainu: spirit of a northern peo (Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 1999)
J. Kreiner (ed.), European studies on Ainu langu, Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien der Philipp-Franz–von-Siebold-Stiftung, Band 6 (Munich, Iudicium, 1993)
B. Ohlsen (ed.), Ainu material culture from the, British Museum Occasional Paper 96 (, 1994)