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Japan Tours and Life Style

Terminology of Washi

Washi is a Japanese paper style that originated in Japan. Washi is frequently created using fibres from the gampi tree’s bark, the mitsumata shrub bark, or the paper mulberry bark, but it can also be made with bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat. Washi is derived from the words wa (Japanese) and shi (paper), and it refers to paper manufactured by hand in the traditional fashion.
Washi is a type of traditional Japanese paper that is harder than regular wood pulp paper. It is utilised in a variety of traditional arts. Washi was used in the creation of origami, shodo, and ukiyo-e. Washi was also employed to manufacture ordinary items such as clothing, home products, and toys, as well as Shinto priests’ robes and ritual artefacts, and Buddha sculptures. It was also used to construct wreaths for the winners of the Winter Paralympics in 1998.
Washi, also known as Japanese tissue, is a type of paper that is used in the conservation and mending of books. Washi has also taken on a new form as tape, which is generally used in conjunction with acrylic glue. It works similarly to masking tape in that it may be removed from a variety of surfaces.

Misumi-cho in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture, Mino City in Gifu Prefecture, and Ogawa Town/Higashi-chichibu Village in Saitama Prefecture practise the traditional craft of hand-making paper or Washi. The paper is manufactured from the fibres of the paper mulberry plant, which are thickened and filtered through a bamboo screen after being bathed in pure river water.
Washi paper is used not just for writing letters and books, but also for creating paper screens, room dividers, and sliding doors in the home. The majority of the residents of the three communities contribute to the survival of this skill, which includes mulberry farming, instruction in the techniques, and the development of new goods to promote Washi both domestically and internationally. Washi paper making is passed down via three generations: within Washi crafts people’s families, through preservation organizations, and through local governments.
Washi masters teach and train families and their servants, who have received the techniques from their parents. Everyone in the communities is proud of their Washi-making history, which they see as a symbol of their cultural identity. Washi also promotes social cohesion because the communities are made up of people who are either directly involved in or intimately associated with the activity.

Until the Meiji Period (1868–1922), when Japan underwent a process of westernization, this form of handmade paper remained popular. With the western influence came yoshi paper, which was essentially mass-produced, machine-made paper. Washi began to take a backseat at this time, and its position was shifted from ordinary use to more artisanal and traditional uses.



What is Washi made up of?




The ideal time to manufacture washi is in the middle of winter, when water is naturally frozen and free of pollutants, providing the freshest, most natural components for papermaking. Because the various regions of Japan utilize slightly different techniques, the procedures and materials will vary based on the sort of washi you’re making.

Harvesting: To begin, you’ll need the paper’s supplies. Kozo and mitsumata, two commonly grown bushes, are used in most washi paper, as well as gampi, which is normally wild. These are usually picked in the winter months of December and January.

Steaming, stripping, and selecting: The branches must first be steamed before you may separate the portions of the plants you require. The bark is gently peeled and dried until it’s soft and ready to strip. After boiling the dried bark, any impurities are recognised and eliminated. The pre-paper solution is then pounded by hand to free fibres before being formed into a sheet.

Sheeting: This is probably the most well-known step in the washi-making process. The pulpy paper solution is starting to take shape, albeit in a very loose manner, at this point. The paper pulp is then spread out onto a mat, which is then shaken to help the fibres entwine. The extra water is drained out of the solution once the appropriate size and thickness have been achieved.

Ultimate phases: The almost-ready-to-go sheets are treated to a few more aesthetic steps before they reach their final washi form after being left to dry overnight. The paper is pressed to remove any excess water, then the sheets are separated, brushed to remove any invading textures, and dried in the sun once more. These huge, dry sheets serve as the framework for cutting washi.

Difference between Washi and Paper


terminology of washi


Mr. Ichibei Iwano, the renowned National Living Treasure from the Echizen washi village, created the washi. This paper, made entirely of Japanese Nasu Kozo fibres, was prepared by hand using the same techniques that have been utilised for hundreds of years. The paper is formed by interweaving threads, which is a rather easy process.

Paper, on the other hand, is commonly used in copy machines. It is coated with various cosmetic powders in addition to pulp fibres. The simplicity of structure can be a point to focus on when identifying washi from machine-made paper.

The chemically mass-produced machine-made paper places a premium on producing vast amounts of paper in a short amount of time. As a result, they were able to save time by cutting the fibres short and grinding them into homogeneous particles. Manufacturers simply apply makeup if something is missing. They utilise minerals to reinforce the paper, bleach to make it white, blend fine powders, and press to make it smooth because this procedure degrades the paper’s quality. Furthermore, the sheets are coated even more to make them appropriate for ink-jet printers.

The machine-made paper has been developed in the same way, by continually adding chemical ideas to the process. Washi-making, on the other hand, is really simple. Ichibei paper is entirely constructed of Kozo fibres. As a result, the paper becomes plump, supple, and sturdy, with a lifespan of roughly 1000 years. Because the washi-making process is so straightforward, the attributes of the fibres themselves become the qualities of the sheets. The properties of Kozo, Mitsumata, Gampi, and hemp have been retained throughout history; at times, they have been finely mixed to create a unique paper capable of sustaining its different functions.

Washi resembles a room filled with air, but machine-made paper resembles a concrete-hardened plank. Concrete may appear to be durable, yet it is really brittle. Washi may appear to be weaker, but it is extremely adaptable.

Where to purchase washi from

If you’re in Kyoto, be sure to visit Kamiji Kakimoto, situated in the downtown area. This site is considered to be home to one of the best washi paper stores in Japan. Here you’ll find a broad selection of art and craft products including a very healthy stock of washi paper.

Address: 54 Tokiwagi-cho, Teramachi-dori, Nijo agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Another downtown Kyoto location is Wagaminomise Morita Washi. This incredibly well-stocked store sells everything from high-end designer-style washi to rough, lovable textured and rustic paper.

Address: 1F Kajinoha Building, 298 Ogisakaya-cho, Higashinotoin-dori, Bukkoji agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto

If you’re not in Japan, one of the greatest locations to get some paper will almost certainly be online. The Awagami Factory, currently maintained by the 6th generation paper master, offers a wide range of washi and speciality papers, including machine-made mulberry papers, some of which are ink-jet printer compatible, making them ideal for modern applications (invitations, decorations, etc). You can order directly from Japan or browse their list of international providers.

Another site worth bookmarking is Washi Arts, which offers a wide range of paper goods, many of which can be mailed for $5 within the United States or for a little higher charge overseas.

Washi in Japanese Culture

Washi was once used for almost everything that contemporary machine-made paper is now utilised for. Washi is obviously more expensive than conventional paper because it is a handcrafted product, hence it has been phased out in some locations. However, there are still those occasions when only the most gorgeous washi will suffice!

Washi is a great substrate for lino block printing, coloured lithographs, letterpress, embossing, and, in more recent times, digital printing, due to its thicker, more absorbent texture. When printed on Japanese washi, cards and wedding invites, for example, are incomparably more welcoming!

Washi is used in several traditional Japanese art genres. If you read our guide to Nihonga painting, for example, you’ll notice that one of the aspects that identify this uniquely Japanese style is the use of washi rather than canvas or modern paper. Washi’s unique texture is also important for Sumi-e (ink painting), as it helps the watery ink to flow and absorb properly. Some artists, such as Tetsuya Nagata, consider washi paper to be art in and of itself.


terminology of washi Bookbinding
Because Japan is a literature-loving country, it’s no wonder that washi and publishing go together. Washi is most commonly used for book covers due to its durability and flexibility, rather than on the internal pages.

Washi paper is an ideal tool for origami because of its robust, pliable texture. It holds its shape considerably better than other origami papers that are thinner. Of course, washi’s distinct appearance adds to the finished object’s appeal.

Interior design: Washi has long been regarded as an appropriate material for lamps, indoor screens, and, more recently, shutters and blinds, due to its intriguing, almost earthy textures and a distinctive quality that gives off gentle transparent light. It has a much more organic, natural appearance than sterile mass-produced paper or other artificial materials.

Types of Washi popular in Japan

The use of Mitsumata as a raw material began in the Meiji era (1868-1912), making it a fairly new type of Washi paper compared to the other two.

The cultivation of Ganpi is difficult, so the manufacturers mostly use the wild-grown ones. Ganpi Washi paper has the highest glossiness and smoothness of all, and its main characteristic is that it does not bleed easily even without dosa sizing.

Mashi, a type of Washi paper that’s made of hemp and Kozo.

Kumohada-mashi is an unbleached Washi paper, so it produces a natural color of Kozo.

Both papers contain hemp, making them highly durable.

The following table is a comparison between Kozo×Mitsumata Double Layered Washi Paper and Shin-mashi. Since both Washi papers contain Mitsumata, they have a combination of Kozo’s supple strength and the smoothness of Mitsumata.


Washi in history and today has always been an eminent part of Japanese cultures and ceremonies

Washi-based inkjet paper has become increasingly popular in recent years. People appear to like washi for art endeavors due of its durability,” Ishikawa adds.

Washi is also required for the repair of important cultural works both in Japan and abroad. Tengujo-shi, the world’s thinnest washi, is particularly noteworthy. It’s made with technology that only one company in the world, situated in Kochi Prefecture in Japan, has access to. The paper is only 0.02 mm thick, and it has been used to restore a number of world-famous artworks and historical documents, including Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, a fresco in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. In this way, the Japanese washi tradition is extending into the future and being used all over the world.

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