Johan’s Washi Expedition 2013 part 1

At the beginning of 2013, we were contacted by Johan Solberg (of Norway) in regards to experiencing papermaking in Japan. Having traveled in Japan and studied a basic Japanese language course, Hiromi decided to connect him with the papermakers of Kochi to start with in October 2013. The following is his very first report!

Washi expedition to Kōchi prefecture 2013, Part 1

My name is Johan Solberg and I work with traditional bookbinding, both with book restoration and new bindings. I grew up in Norway and I am currently running a bookbindery in a city called Halden close to Oslo.

Washi is essential to my repair and restoration work, and I also appreciate the aesthetics of washi. Therefore I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about washi, how it’s made, and also to learn more about Japanese culture. Hiromi Katayama of Hiromi Paper Inc, along with her contacts in Kōchi, made it possible for me to travel to Ino-chō, Kochi to get a first hand experience of washi making. I am really grateful for this possibility.

My journey first went from Stockholm, Sweden to Tokyo. It was an 18-hour flight. Next I journeyed further with shinkansen and regular train from Tokyo to Ino-chō, Kochi. I was met by Tsuyoshi Ageta at the station in Ino-chō. We went directly to the house in which I was going to live. When I came in to the house, I was really overwhelmed. A welcome party was held for me! We had a great night with a lot of good food and conversations.DSCF2637

I was very jet-lagged and I needed a few days to recover. On the following Tuesday of my arrival, Ageta-san drove me on a tour around the area. The surrounding nature is absolutely stunning. Steep foothills covered in dense green forest. We started on a road that followed the clear waters of Niyodo river. Tosawashikougeimura was our first stop. At this place I was introduced to the way the fibers are cleaned to perfection after they have been cooked (Chiritori).


We continued our drive passing farmlands and traditional Japanese wooden houses until we reached Tengujoushi Kyoudousagyoujo. Here we met Mrs. Mie Hamada who was making baskets used for koubori. Mrs. Hamada also showed us different sheets of papers, which had been beautifully decorated in various colors.


Our next stop was the Paper Museum in Ino. I got an exclusive tour around the museum by Ageta-san and Tomoko Hosokawa who spoke perfect English. So I learned a lot and got se see traditional equipment for washi making and also books and items made of washi.

After the Paper Museum, Kochi Perfectural Paper Technology Center was the next place on our list. Masaaki Ariyoshi gave me a splendid tour around the facilities and explained me in detail the process of washi and I got to look at different types of fibres. Ageta-san showed me the collection of washi samples from the whole of Japan. That really gave me an idea of the complexity of the craft.


Our next stop was in Tosa city at the paper mill of Kensho Ishimoto.
Here I got to observe the drying process, as well as looking around in the interiors of this traditional paper mill.



Our final stop of this tour was the paper mill of Takeo Ishimoto. Tsuyako Yokogawa (in the picture) was making large sheets of paper. It was amazing to watch her skilled movements of the suketa. I even got to try, but it was extremely difficult, and the result became a lump of fibres.


Before we went back to Ino, we drove on a narrow road heading up the hillside. At the end of the road surrounded by green forest was Kiyotaki-ji Temple. This was the first temple that I have visited on Shikoku, and I really hope to go visit others as well.


I learned a lot that day, and I got to see the washi making process from different perspectives. It was also a very good introduction to the area.

The next day I started working as an intern at Takaoka-Ushi Co., Ltd. Communication is of course challenging, because of my very limited Japanese, but my coworkers are very patient and I really feel included.


My first task at the paper mill was to remove dark spots from the kozo fibers (Chiritori). The work requires a lot of patience and concentration. It feels good to participate in the washi production.


Behind the Scenes: Vegetable/Fruit Papyrus

Here is a sneak-peek into the studio of Martha & Alfons in Germany, the makers of the beautiful vegetable and fruit papyrus papers!

Thinly sliced radish strips, drying in the sun
Thinly sliced radish strips, drying in the sun
Alfons, preparing the vegetables…

More to come!


Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 2

It’s now off to Kochi for Yuki and I! A bit tired and wary from traveling long distances on the bullet train, but we were undoubtedly excited for this leg of our journey.

Continue reading “Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 2”

Washi Tour 2012: Kochi

After Fukui, Joanna and I rode the bullet train and local trains and finally arrived at Ino-machi in Kochi Prefecture.

(Since most of the papermakers did not allow us to take pictures because of their machines, the pictures are a bit limited).

Our first stop was to the public paper-making work area located in Naro. This location is extremely sufficient, equipped with the facilities needed in order to make washi from the beginning.

Continue reading “Washi Tour 2012: Kochi”

LACMA Encore Talk

Last night, Hiromi Paper staff and LACMA conservator Soko Furuhata gave an encore lecture on Washi and Youshi: Japanese and Western Paper at LACMA. It was definitely a broad topic, and we found we just have too much to say in one hour! But, somehow we got our presentation down to three basics: History of Japanese Paper (Washi), Video clips on papermaking (you really have to see the movements), and Hiromi Paper collaborations between western artists and washi papermakers. We end on a sort of serious note on Hiromi Paper’s mission in continuing to support washi papermakers, but we truly felt the support and encouragement from the audience afterward. We are so grateful for this! LACMA conservator Soko Furuhata also gave her very interesting presentation on western handmade papers and how LACMA uses Japanese paper in their conservation projects. Thank you Soko and the LACMA councils for making this night possible!

Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 1

Hello everyone! I had the most amazing trip with Yuki a couple of weeks back, as you may have noticed from the wonderful updates packed with images and notable information she has been posting. It was definitely overwhelming to jump into the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo city life from day 1, but coming from Los Angeles, it was easier to adjust to. Racing against a threat of jet-lag, we roamed the city street life from morning to dusk!


Continue reading “Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 1”