The Beauty of Washi

Nov 27th, 2008 | By | Category: History & Culture

White Washi Washi or hand made Japanese paper is one of the many beautiful items that hold a special place in Japanese culture.

The history of paper making in Japan can be traced back over 1,300 years and was an adaptation of Korean methods of paper making.  Traditionally, many of the paper makers in Japan were farmers who planted some of the planted kozo and hemp, two of  the ingredients used in making washi, along with their regular crops.  In the winter, when the farmers were unable to work in the fields they would turn their attention to making washi. The process of making washi can take up to 10 days and involves an number of steps that starts with the cooking of the bark and finishes with the drying and inspection of the resulting washi.  The painstaking washi making process used by Ichibei Iwano, a living national treasure, was beautifully documented in images by Washiya in 2001 and taking some time to learn more about the process will enhance you appreciation for this wonderful paper.

Washi Paper LightingWashi can be thick or thin, nubbly or smooth, it may be a pure natural white or retain visible threads of the bark used to make it.   Washi comes in many forms and is used in a multitude of ways in Japanese culture.

Washi paper is is often used in Japanese style interior design and is the paper used in shoji doors, beautiful lamps shades and you may even find particularly stunning pieces framed as artwork.   Japanese calligraphers use washi as a base for their work as do ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artisans.  Washi PaperTraditional Japanese umbrellas are made using oiled washi paper and  in ancient times this durable and breathable paper was even used for clothing.

Origami is commonly done with decorative washi and it can also be found on many everyday items from notebook covers, decorative boxes, and desk accessories to children’s toys and fashionable jewelry.

The Japanese National Tourist association has put together a  list of Washi Making Workshops throughout Japan.  Reservations are required and the workshops are primarily conducted in Japanese but are still enjoyable and informative to attend even if you don’t speak the language.  Many stores catering to tourists offer a selection of washi paper and related goods and accessories – on of the best is the Ginza Ito-ya store in Tokyo where you will find washi on the 6th floor.

Image Credit:  Flickr, Rolls of Washi, Autumn Lights & white washi origami flower

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  1. […] the history about the history of washi (Japanese Paper) at Washi-no-Furasato in Toyota […]

  2. I’ve been on the washi making tour at Saitama Craft Centre in Ogawamachi, and it was really a lot of fun. The results were pretty good. It’s a short workshop of about 1 hour, so there is plenty of time to look at the galleries etc. Good fun!

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