Washi - Handmade papers

© Awagami Factory, Washi Paper Texture

Washi paper stands as one of Japan's fundamental yet often overlooked artistic products. For over 1,300 years, it has been the backbone of various other Japanese art forms. In fact, entire towns have been built around the tradition of making washi paper, showcasing its deep integration into Japanese culture.

In its simplest terms, washi paper refers to traditional Japanese paper, with 'wa' (和) signifying Japanese and 'shi' (紙) meaning paper. From its diverse historical background to its numerous applications, and even the notable travel destinations in Japan, there is a wealth of fascinating aspects to explore about this historically rich and enduring art.

Although it has become an iconic cultural element in Japan today, the origins of washi paper production can be traced back to China. Around 610 CE, the technique of handmaking paper was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks, primarily used for transcribing sacred sutras.

As history shows, Japan not only adopted this paper-making method but also refined it by incorporating more textile-type materials into the production process, such as kozo (mulberry) and gampi fibers. This enhancement served to strengthen the paper, prolong its lifespan, and enhance its versatility.

 © Awagami Factory, Washi Paper Texture

Kōzogami (楮紙) – Kozogami, crafted from the paper mulberry, represents the most extensively produced form of washi. It possesses a resilience akin to fabric rather than conventional paper, retaining its strength even when treated for water resistance. The lengthy and robust fibers derived from the kozo plant yield remarkably sturdy and dimensionally stable papers, serving as the primary fiber type in the creation of Japanese washi. Tissue fashioned from kozo is available in various thicknesses and colors.

Mulbery - Broussonetia papyrifera

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