IN JAPAN, even more than China, people use bamboo for decoration. The classic wood-and-paper Japanese house utilizes bamboo in ceilings, moldings, rainspouts, gutters, and, particularly, as the corner post of the tokonoma, the viewing alcove where works of art are displayed. In Kyoto an amazing number of things are made of bamboo: baskets, flutes, bows and arrows, dueling staves, plant pots, pipes, boxes, benches, chairs, flower stands, dolls, scarecrows, garden fences, and artifacts for the tea ceremony. In a collection in Japan I saw for the first time a bamboo wife, invented centuries ago in China to bring solace to hot nights. It is a woven basketwork cylinder about five feet long, which the sleeper embraces and throws one leg over, so that cooling breezes can pass through. Among the myriad uses of bamboo listed in the literature, I had come across a curious entry: “Torture.” Man’s inhumanity to man has made use even of mankind’s best friend in the plant world. Many bamboos have Culm sheaths covered with a down of fine hairs. Beware of touching these! They will get under the skin and produce intense irritation. Bacteria on the hairs could even cause blood poisoning. I had read that in ancient times sheath hairs were mixed with food to get rid of an enemy. The Order of the Sacred Treasure was conferred on Dr. Kocher Ueda of Kyoto for his scholarly work on bamboo. With field journal in hand, he examines distorted culms of tortoiseshell bamboo, whose rare genetic aberration increases its value to collectors. Nowhere have the usefulness and beauty of bamboo been more fully exploited than in Japan. The crisp texture and subtle flavor of bamboo shoots have made them a favored part of Oriental, especially Chinese, cuisine. Grown as an export crop on Taiwanese farms, they are harvested when newly sprouted and tender. Sorted and packed by Sincere Foodstuff Enterprises Co. Ltd., many are shipped to a growing market in the West. Most desirable, like the heart of the artichoke, is the innermost growing tip, its embryonic nodes and internodes visible as gently scalloped surfaces. These delicacies are reserved for Eastern markets. Giant pandas are the true gourmands of bamboo, their main diet in the wild, and they consume culms, leaves, and all. The recent flowering of umbrella bamboo, one of their staples, has raised concern for the survival of pandas in China, since their environment has already been disrupted by the increasing pressures of human activities.