Tanabe was born to one of Japan's most prestigious bamboo pedigrees. From a young age he gravitated towards bamboo, making his first piece when he was only 7 or 8. Like his father, Tanabe Chikuunsai III, he attended art school and earned a degree in sculpture. In 2017 he became Chikuunsai IV, representing the fourth generation of bamboo artists in his family.
Tanabe continues to keep his family’s heritage alive by mastering the traditional basket forms and techniques that the Tanabe family is known for, but he has also established his own career as a sculptor known for organic abstract forms and room-size installations constructed from tiger bamboo.
The artist has received many accolades, including the Enku Prize from the Gifu Museum of Arts in 2013 and Best of Show at the 44th Japanese Traditional Craft Arts Kinki Exhibition in 2015. He is also active outside Japan, exhibiting in the US, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. His work is in the collections of the British Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Savannah College of Art and Design, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Victoria and Albert Museum in London.