So why did matcha bamboo whisk making become so popular in Takayama?
In the mid-14th to 16th centuries, during the Muromachi period in Japan (1336-1568), the art of making tea whisks began in Takayama Village, which was then under the rule of the Takaoyama clan. It is said that Sōgai, the second son of the village lord, started the production of tea whisks in response to a request from his close friend, Juko Murata.
Juko Murata, a Buddhist priest, was famous as a master of renga poetry, waka poetry, and calligraphy, and is regarded as the founder of the modern-day Wabi-cha (tea ceremony). Through their shared interest in renga and waka poetry, Juko and Sōgai developed a deep friendship. When Juko devised the tea ceremony, he entrusted Sōgai with the task of creating the utensil for whisking the tea, which marked the beginning of the tea whisk's production.
Later, when Juko relocated to Kyoto, Sokei presented his self-made tea whisk to Emperor Go-Daigo during a tea gathering. The Emperor was deeply moved by its delicate craftsmanship and named the tea whisk "Takaho." As a result, the Takaho tea whisk gained fame, leading to the renaming of the town and family name from Takaoyama to Takayama.
Even after the disappearance of Takayama Castle, the secret art of chasen (tea whisk) making and its sale were guarded by sixteen loyal retainers. The craft of chasen making became a tradition passed down through generations. It has been faithfully handed down to this day, and Takayama in Nara Prefecture has now become the sole producer of chasen in the entire country.
However, as times changed and labor shortages became a challenge, this system began to break down, and the once closely-guarded techniques were made accessible to the general public. In the modern era, Takayama chasen has been recognized for its 500 years of history and craftsmanship, and it has been designated as a traditional craft in Japan.