Washi - Handmade papers

© Awagami Factory, Washi Paper Texture

Washi paper is one of Japan’s most fundamental, and often overlooked, artistic products. During 1,300 years of production it has formed the backbone of many other Japanese artforms. In fact washi paper is so ingrained in Japanese culture, there are literally towns build around washi paper making.

In the most basic of terms, washi paper simply means traditional Japanese paper, wa (和) meaning Japanese and shi (紙) meaning paper. From its eclectic history, through its many uses, to the key travel destinations in Japan, there are many fascinating things to learn and a lot to be said about this richly historic and still relevant art.

Although today it’s an iconically Japanese cultural element, the roots of washi paper production can be traced back to China. In around 610 CE the technique of handmaking paper was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks who used it to write sacred sutras.

As it has done so well throughout history, Japan adopted this paper-making method and improved it, adding more textile-type materials to the paper production process such as kozo (mulberry) and gampi fibers as a way to strengthen the paper, extend its longevity, and increase its versatility. 

 © Awagami Factory, Washi Paper Texture

Kōzogami (楮紙) – Kozogami is made from paper mulberry and is the most widely made type of washi. It has a toughness closer to cloth than to ordinary paper and does not weaken significantly when treated to be water-resistant. The long, strong fibers of the kozo plant produce very strong, dimensionally stable papers, and are the most commonly used fibers in the making of Japanese paper (washi). Tissue made from kōzo, comes in varying thicknesses and colors.

Mulbery - Broussonetia papyrifera

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