HPI’s 2019 Washi Tour by Yukako Ando

Above, the Yoshino river, with its pebbled edges, flows elegantly through Nara, where our Uda Gami and Nara Natural Dyed paper series are made. (pic: Yukako Ando)
Every two years, Hiromi Paper staff lead a tour through Japan visiting papermakers, toolmakers, and conservationists to gain further understanding of the world of Washi. The tour is heavily focused on conservation, thus we visit mostly the artisans who are producing papers used for conservation and restoration. As usual, the tour began in Kyoto, then traveled on a chartered bus through Japan visiting prefectures like Kochi, Shimane, Fukui, Gifu, and Nara. Participants stay in nearby accommodations and eat what is locally available. During the tour the artisans show how they are making the papers that many of our customers have come to know so well. Here, HPI staff Yuka presents what she saw and what she heard during this year’s tour.

Washi was not made in the summer because the tororoaoi (neri) would lose its viscosity…

In a lightly air-conditioned traditional Japanese house, with the back and forth motion of rocking the suketa (papermaking mould), traditional handmade Japanese paper is made.

IMG_8417_Kozo Furuta studio
The preserved studio of the late Kozo Furuta, one of Japan’s legendary papermakers. Located in Mino, one of Furuta’s former students, Kiyoko Urabe now makes paper in her own studio adjacent to this historical landmark. Furuta was also a teacher to Hiromi, propietress of Hiromi Paper, and Satoshi Hasegawa, maker of the Usu Gami series among many other splendid papers.

The light that shines through the studio windows are ever so warm and subtle, glistening on the water surface. The well water is cold to the touch. Inside the vat are the soft kozo fibers, floating in a solution of tororoaoi and water. The papermaking studios are quiet and calming, and draws us in.

Contrary to the stillness of the studio, the scorching sun continues to heat up the outdoors, with an uncontrollable amount of sweat rushing out. This year’s Hiromi Paper Washi Tour took place in the lingering summer heat, for seven days in the beginning of September. We visited six regions, twelve studios, and four paper museums.

 

 

IMG_7513_Toolmaker Mr.Yamamoto
For more than 70 years, Mr. Yamamoto is known for his dextrous hands that make and repair traditional Suketa (papermaking moulds). Here he shows the company of the tour how he precisely weaves together with silk, the fine strips of bamboo that form the screen. Like papermakers, toolmakers are on the decline. Waitlists for the renown toolmaker’s services can last many months. 

The hot summertime is an ideal time for papermakers to accept visitors, due to the lack of papermaking work (papermaking is primarily done in the cold months), but the participants and Hiromi Paper staff felt as if we were all on a summer camp, battling the heat and humidity, unique to Japanese summers.

Upon visiting six different regions and twelve studios, I realized that there were various styles in papermaking. The preparation work, materials used, how the suketa (papermaking screen/mould) is moved, how the papers are dried, are all a bit different depending on the region. Due to this slight variation, it’s not possible to simply group “washi” into one category.

Each papermaker or region’s unique papermaking style has been passed down for generations and will be passed onto future generations as well.

 

 

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Aki-chan, working at the large-size papermaker Iwano Paper Mill for most of her life.
IMG_8050_Ichibei Iwano_National Living Tresure_Kizuki Hosho
Ichibei Iwano (NO relation to the Iwano Paper mill which produces large size papers), Echizen Washi’s National Living Treasure, making only one type of paper (Kizuki Hosho) for generations and generations. Kizuki Hosho is a beloved woodblock printing paper that is highly sought-after.

THE YOUNG GENERATION ALSO HARD AT WORK

IMG_7245_Tencho papermaker_Osamu Hamada
The first papermaker we visited was young but highly skilled papermaker Osamu Hamada of Hamadawashi founded by his grandfather the late National Living Treasure, Sajio Hamada. Here Osamu san demonstrates how Tengucho (extremely light weight paper) is made. Tengucho requires very rapid techniques when forming sheets in the suketa leading to a beautiful display of splashing water and pulp.
IMG_7863_Iwano Paper Mill_Large-sie paper making
At Iwano papermill, two young papermakers demonstrate the sort of “dance” that is required to create their large handmade sheets. Due to the size that they are famous for, Iwano papers requires two papermakers working in tandem, intuiting each others movements, to produce consistent, beautiful papers.
IMG_8112_Masami Igarashi_Large-size papermaker
Masami Igarashi, maker of Igarashi Kozo, some of the largest handmade papers in the world, leads the party through her family’s papermill. Igarashi Kozo can be made up to sizes 2.5mx7m.

IN BETWEEN THE OLD AND YOUNG GENERATION ARE: Hiroyoshi Chinzei of Hidaka Washi, Kiyoko Urabe making Usu Mino paper, Masayuki Fukunishi of Uda-gami, Uekubo san of Hon Misu gami, and Norimasa Abe making Izumo Mingei paper.

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Hiroyoshi Chinzei from Hidakawashi shows the tour participants the cooking of stripped bark. It is the cooking process which depletes the lignin from the fibers, bringing them to archival standards. Hidakawashi is responsible for the world’s thinnest paper with some weights as low as 1.6gsm!
IMG_8364_Kiyoko Urabe_Usu-Mino papermaker
Kiyoko Urabe was once the student of Kozo Furuta, making Usu Mino papers.
IMG_8569_Masayuki Fukunishi_Uda-gami
Masayuki Fukinishi of Uda Gami. Kozo fibers for Uda Gami are treated with clay, which prevent the paper from stretching or shrinking when exposed to heat or moisture. 
IMG_8708_Hisako Uekubo_Hon-misu papermaker_drying method called “subuse”
Here, Uekubo san of Hon Misu gami is seen making Hon Misu. Kozo fibers for Hon Misu are treated with gofun–incinerated sea shell dust–which helps keep the paper from stretching or shrinking when exposed to heat or moisture. Unusually, because of the gofun treatment, the papers are transferred directly from the su (screen) to the drying board, skipping the pressing process that wrings out excess water. This is because if pressure is applied to a stack of Uda Gami sheets, they will not compress to let out water, making this step unnecessary. This omission of the pressing step is called subuse.
IMG_7608_Izumo Mingei_Norimasa Abe studio_making indigo dyed paper
Izumo Mingeishi, founded by the late and first papermaker to be designated a National Living Treasure, Eishiro Abe, produces some of the most exquisite shimmering Mitsumata papers. Here his grandson, Norimasa Abe, demonstrates the creation of Izumo Mingei Mitsumata Indigo, one of the most sought after colors from the Izumo Mingei Mitsumata collection. In front of him is a stack of freshly made sheets, each separated by merely a piece of thread.

I don’t want to reveal what the subtle differences in papermaking styles are just yet, but perhaps you’d like to consider finding out for yourself on the next Washi Tour…?

Supported by the presence of beautiful mountains and natural water, there is great significance and depth in the traditions of papermaking, passed down from generations past. To meet the people that make the papers and to learn about the backstory is helpful in becoming one step closer to washi. I am grateful to all of the papermakers and craftsmen that I met throughout the tour, and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

IMG_8873_Bokusendo with Mr. Sekichi
The final stop was Conservation Studio Bokusendo. Mr. Sekichi shows preparation for a new restoration project.
IMG_8848_Mr Sekichi shows Furunori_Bokusendo
Underneath the floorboards at Studio Bokusendo, are pots of aged Jin Shofu (wheat paste). Periodically, staff will uncover the pots and scrape off any mold that has accumulated on the surface. The aging process diminishes the stickiness of paste making it perfect for more delicate procedures. Bokusendo does not sell aged Jin Shofu, but you can make it at home. You better start now, though, because some of the aged Jin Shofu dates back to more than TEN YEARS!

Washi Tour Route: Tosa Washi Museum / Hamada Washi (handmade Tengucho) / Hidaka
Washi (machine-made Tengucho) / Mr. Yamaomto (Japanese papermaking tool maker) /
SHIMANE: Abe Eishiro Memorial Hall / Shinichiro and Norimasa Abe (Izumo Mingei
papermaker) / Otaki Shrine (Paper shrine) / Iwano Paper Mill (large-sie handmade papermaker)/ Yamaki Seishi (Gampi papermaker) / Ichibei Iwano (National Living Treasure) / Igarashi Paper Mill (large-size handmade papermaker) / Kiyoko Urabe (Usu Mino papermaker) / Mino Washi Museum / Masayuki Fukunishi (Yoshino Uda-gami papermaker) / Ryoji Uekubo (Hon Misu papermaker) / Mr. Sekichi of Bokusendo (Conservation studio)

For more information about our Biannual Washi Tour, email washi@hiromipaper.com.

ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT HIROMI PAPER, INC. For use of images you can inquire at washi@hiromipaper.com. All photos taken by Yukako Ando.

From Japan: Keiji Oki of Mohachi Paper in Fukui

(Translated by Yuki Katayama)

Keiji Oki_1

Keiji Oki is the third generation Mohachi papermaker. Mohachi is an extra heavy weight yet soft paper. It is sized internally, making the papers suitable for printmaking, painting and ink-jet printing.

Can you tell us a little about the history of Mohachi paper?

From the Edo period, the Oki mill originally made only Hosho papers. It was only from early Showa period that first generation Mohachi Oki became interested in making a Japanese watercolor paper for western painting.  The beginning of WWII prompted the development of a thick Japanese paper, since the supply at the time was all western papers that could not be imported during the war. This type of paper was invented with guidance from Mr. Hakutei Ishii (painter and print artist, one of the fathers of the sosaku hanga (creative print) movement) It was named “MO” paper, from the first two letters of Mr. Mohachi Oki.

Post-war, once the production of MO Mohachi paper normalized, the production of larger sized papers and printmaking papers began. These papers were not for mokuhanga, but for methods such as lithography, etching and silkscreen.

Keiji Oki_papermaking13

 Any new papers that you’d like to try making?

I’d like to try making papers using the same materials as the Mohachi paper, but cater to new needs of artists or printmakers. That is how the largest size 31″ x 47″ Mohachi paper was developed, because there was a higher demand for larger paper for artists to use. 

What is your view on the future of washi? 

I’d like to focus on promoting the large variety of papers that Echizen has and showing the world what Echizen Washi has to offer. Also, I am still in the process of thinking of ways to keep Mohachi papers relevant and increase demand. 

Any hobbies outside of papermaking?

I like to climb mountains and run marathons in my free time. My current goal is to climb as many mountains as I can in the “100 Famous Japanese Mountains” list.

See artist feature to read about how artist Sal Taylor Kidd uses the Mohachi in her printing.

From Japan: Hiroya Yamashita from Yamaji Paper mill in Fukui

In our quest for the most color fast kozo paper, Hiromi Paper has collaborated with Echizen papermaker, Hiroya Yamashita, to create the Hiroya color series. Here are some questions we had for Hiroya about the new color series:
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Paper profile: Weight, Size, Material, Sizing, and Cooked with?
50% Kozo, 35% Pulp, 15% Manila Hemp
67 gsm
With sizing
Cooked with caustic soda

How did you get into papermaking?
I started papermaking about 13 years ago, when I was 23 years old. The mill is my family business, so it was a smooth transition into the world of papermaking.

Can you tell us the process of developing this paper?
The base of Hiroya Paper is a handmade paper that we had originally been making at the mill, with a mixture of local-grown kozo, pulp and Manila hemp. I felt that it was important to use as much local ingredients as possible, since I knew this paper was going to be used internationally.

What do you find yourself doing when not making paper?
I love cycling, playing golf, and of course eating myself full of sushi!

Please leave a few words for our readers if you have any:
I’m always open for new suggestions or opinions on what kind of papers overseas customers want! Please let us papermakers know, and we will try our best to fulfill those requests!

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 4.03.42 PM

How were the colors of Hiroya Paper developed?
In order to achieve better, long-lasting colors, I outsourced to a different company for their assistance to dye the papers after the papers were formed.
 
What is the significance of the coloring?
The pigments used are what were traditionally used to dye kimono textiles, and are much less likely to fade over time.

How are the colors applied to the papers?
The colors are screen-printed onto the papers, all by hand.

Rembrandt’s Etchings and Echizen Paper

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Sugihara-san and Fukui paper makers attended the opening of the much anticipated exhibition: Rembrandt’s Etchings and Japanese Echizen paper at the Rembrandt House Museum!

The exhibition will be open to the public until September 20th, 2015.

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The Rembrandt House which once was his home is now a historical monument and museum, commemorating Rembrandt’s life and work located in Amsterdam. He lived and worked in this house from 1639 to 1658. Although the interior has been reconstructed since then, the overall architecture remains the same as it was in his time.

IMG_3889 Continue reading “Rembrandt’s Etchings and Echizen Paper”

Japanese papermaking as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

On November 27th, UNESCO officially registered “Washi: handmade Japanese papermaking and techniques” into the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The specific types of washi that were recognized were: Sekishu Banshi (Shimane prefecture), Hon Mino-shi (Gifu) and Hosokawa-shi (Saitama).

376399_266922766747850_539337155_n(Original Japanese article can be found here)

What is significant about these three types of washi?

1) Made with 100% kozo

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Japanese papers (washi) are primarily made using kozo, gampi or mitsumata fibers. Other materials such as wood pulp and hemp are used, to create different textures of washi. The three papers that were chosen for UNESCO only use kozo, which has longer fibers, which creates a beautiful and strong paper.

2) Using only domestic materials

Nowadays, many papermakers rely on foreign-grown kozo (Philippines, Thailand, China, etc) because of the availability and low cost. Though these foreign-grown kozo fibers are similar to those grown domestically, there are issues of them leaving flecks of oils within the finished paper; lowering the overall quality of the papers.

Sekishu uses kozo grown locally, Hon-Mino-shi uses the highest quality Nasu kozo and Hosokawa-shi uses local or Kochi kozo.

The continuing decrease of kozo farmers is another existing concern. They can be cultivated, but the return of income is so much lower compared to other industries. There have been efforts to cultivate Japanese kozo on foreign land using planting stock, but the quality of course will not be the same.

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3) Whitens over time

Usually, chemical additives are used in papermaking to bleach the fibers to create a whiter paper. However, the three selected regions do not add any chemicals during their process, which makes the paper become whiter and whiter over time.

Papers that have been chlorine bleached are a pure bright white color in the beginning, but after being exposed to sunlight over time, the ultra-violet rays turn the papers yellow.

4) Water

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The quality of water is also an important element in papermaking. The kozo fibers are usually immersed in water to wash away dirt and impurities, or “chiri”. This is why all papermaking regions have close access to natural water.

5) Nagashizuki method

The three selected regions all use the traditional Japanese papermaking method of nagashizuki. Contrary to the tamezuki method where the water is simply drained from the papermaking screen, nagashizuki is done by moving the mold, creating a weave of fibers.

6) Wet strength

It is said that handmade papers are much stronger to water compared to machinemade papers. Papers that have been carefully dried in the sun are especially resistant to falling apart in water.

It is fantastic news that washi and the techniques have been recognized internationally by UNESCO, and would hope that Japanese papermaking and related industries will attract more attention from this.

From Japan: All-Japan Handmade Washi Association

50 Years of the All-Japan Handmade Washi Association

by Satoshi Hasegawa/Translated by Yuki Katayama

hasegaw
Mino papermaker Satoshi Hasegawa in his early years

The All Japan Handmade Washi Association is an organization constructed of Japanese papermakers from around the country. Established in 1963, this group has acted as a prime spot for information exchange for 50 years. Though our activities and members have decreased since establishment, the association is still striving to preserve handmade washi.

Back in March, we all gathered to look back on the past 50 years. We were surprised to realize that many of the past records and documents had not been organized or even stored, so there was almost no records of the first 25 years of association activity. There was one individual we came across while organizing data that caught my attention. From the documents I could tell that he was a very devout ‘washi-lover’, who put much effort into succeeding the washi traditions to further generations.

He also greatly contributed to Hon Mino paper being chosen as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset, stating that “We must make (Hon Mino) an Intangible Cultural Asset, before we lose the paper forever”.

I feel that these countless efforts from past individuals is one of the main reasons handmade washi has survived for all these years.

Handmade washi has been proposed to UNESCO for their Intangible Cultural Heritage candidate as “Traditional Japanese washi”, but there are many existing problems in washi production and well as succeeding the traditions.

I wonder what the dedicated, washi-loving individual would say about the current situation of handmade washi. Though I can never meet him, I can’t help but want to exchange thoughts and ideas with him.

From Hiromi Paper:
Like Hasegawa-san, we at Hiromi Paper are also concerned about the decrease in papermakers that are able to make high-quality washi. We hope that we can be of help to those Japanese papermakers and preserve their traditions.

Thank you, Hasegawa-san, for always sending us your lovely and wonderful Mino papers!
See them here: HP-01 Hon Mino, HP-02 Usu Mino, HP-04 Usu Mino Thin, HP-05 Chochin, HM-54 Usu Mino Thinnest.

Kozo bark party in Kochi

Stripping of Kozo Bark…

The time of the year has come again where the people of Ino-machi gather for the annual stripping of kozo bark.
The past blog post can be found here.

Many thanks to Mr. Hiroyoshi Chinzei, who provided us with wonderful photos!

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Kozo appears!

Continue reading “Kozo bark party in Kochi”