Washi: Traditional Handmade Japanese Paper

Washi is traditional Japanese paper. The term is used to describe paper that uses local fiber, processed by hand and made in the traditional manner. Washi is made using fibers from the inner bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry bush. As a Japanese craft, it is registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.

History

Papermaking was introduced to Japan more than 1,300 years ago. The Chronicles of Japan, Nihon Shoki, written in the year 720, state that the Chinese methods of making ink and paper were introduced to Japan by the Korean Buddhist priest, Doncho, in 610.

Production Process

Washi is produced in a way similar to that of ordinary paper, but relies heavily on manual methods. It involves a long and intricate process that is often undertaken in the cold weather of winter, as pure, cold running water is essential to the production of washi. Cold inhibits bacteria, preventing the decomposition of the fibres. Cold also makes the fibres contract, producing a crisp feel to the paper.

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