Washi Tour 2010 Part 7 Handmade Tengucho Paper by Hamada

Next in Kochi, we visited the Hamada family home and studio, where handmade Tengucho is produced. Our World of Washi newsletter article on the family and Handmade Tengucho can be read here. After seeing so many photos of the famous Hamada family and their Tengucho making techniques, it was definitely a surreal moment to be in the small studio watching it live in front of me. It was like the group felt the moment as well, all of us silently snapping away, trying to capture Hironao’s quick, mechanical movements (it wasn’t easy, and we could have probably stayed all day taking photos until he was finished!)


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Washi Tour 2010 Part 6 Nai Gai – Machine Made Tengucho Paper

The next stop was to a paper mill that was brand new to Hiromi Paper, Nai Gai Tengucho Paper, Ltd. Owned by two sisters, Nai Gai specializes in machine made Tengucho. Like the Shikoku Wagami machine made Gampi mill, we learned here again that machine made paper still takes a large amount of time to prepare by hand. The kozo fibers are cooked and cleaned by hand. Then, setting Tosa Tengucho apart from everywhere else, a specially made stainless steel basket (koburi) is used in water to separate the fibers and clean them even further.

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Washi Tour 2010 Part 5 Shikoku Wagami Machine Made Gampi Paper

After visiting Yamamoto-san, we were off to see Shikoku Wagami – a machine made paper production mill that began in the 1960s. Owned by Mr. Kariya, they are currently mainly making Gampi papers. Hiromi Paper’s Gampi Rolls are currently all from this mill. Compared to Kozo (Mulberry) and Mitsumata fibers, Gampi fibers are thin and very difficult to clean during chiritori. Because the plants cannot be cultivated like Kozo, workers have to go deep into the mountainsides to gather Gampi bark. Otherwise, Gampi is also imported from the Phlippines. Philippine Gampi may produce washi that is not as smooth, but it can be obtained much easier than Japanese Gampi.

above: 1 barrel of cooked Gampi fibers waiting for chiritori

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Washi Tour 2010 Part 4 Yamamoto – Suketa (papermaking tool) maker

Day 3 and the first visit of the morning is to see 81 year old Yamamoto Tadayoshi, long time suketa maker. A suketa is the frame washi is made in; su being bamboo screen and keta being the wooden frame. In the studio at his house, he makes the su, keta, and hinges by hand. The art of splitting and joining bamboo splints for the screen (su) required years of apprenticeship.

When we came in, he was in the process of repairing a keta (frame) that was not made professionally.Yamamoto-san himself is one of a very few number of professional suketa makers in Japan. The first thought that came to our minds was “is he apprenticing the next generation??”. Sadly, he did not seem to have any at the moment.

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Washi Tour 2010 Part 3 Tosa Washi Village Qraud

Window view from Qraud Hotel

In Kochi, we stayed at the “Qraud” for 2 nights. Overlooking the Niyodo River, Qraud offers Japanese rooms, hot spring bath, and Japanese & French cuisine using local ingredients. But what sets this hotel apart are the activities going on. Papermaking workshops, dying and weaving fabric workshops, and canoe activities are available to guests and visitors. Papermaking studios are also housed in Qraud for local papermakers.

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Washi Tour 2010 Part 2 Tosa Washi Museum

Day 2 – As soon as we arrived in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku Island, it was straight to the Japanese Paper Museum in Ino Town. The museum focused on Tosa Washi (washi made in Kochi) and displayed papers from historical to modern times. In 1976, the Japanese government designated Tosa Washi as a traditional Japanese craft, with Tengucho & Seicho-shi as cultural assets. The museum was a great introduction to washi in Japan and a glimpse of the real papermakers we were about to see.

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