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:
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.

Artist Feature: John Wigmore

John Wigmore

We had the pleasure of visiting the studio of lighting designer and artist, John Wigmore. He combines the elements of sculpture, painting, and installation with Japanese papers for his lighting installations for both show rooms and personal clients. This time, we were able to ask a couple of questions and learn more about John and his work.


Q: Can you tell us a little about your artist background and company?
A: I graduated from UCSC with a BA in Art Studio and mainly concentrated on painting and sculpture. I got interested in natural materials and found that I enjoyed working with paper in my sculptures. I was looking at a lot of James Turrell and Robert Irwin at the time in the early 90’s and began making my light sculptures in NYC from Okawara paper combined with a heavyweight watercolor paper.
Print on Harukaze, kozo layers.

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Celebrate Hiromi Paper’s 25th Anniversary with Us!

Date: September 28th, 2013 (Saturday)
Time: 6.30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Hiromi Paper, Bergamot Station.
2525 Michigan Ave, Suite G-9
Santa Monica, CA 90404

25 years ago Hiromi Paper opened to serve a connection between Japanese paper-makers and artists around the world. This year we will be celebrating our quarter century anniversary and we would love to have you join in on our festivities! An evening reception will take place right at Bergamot Station, where our retail store is located. We will also be joined by paper-makers from Kochi and Fukui, Japan. Stop by for some drinks, grub, and to mingle with fellow paper/art lovers and makers! There will also be a special 25% discount off all items in-store on the day of the reception party.

Please RSVP by calling or emailing.


Check out our new aprons, which we will be selling for $15.00! Contact us for more information.


By Hasegawa Satoshi
Translations by Yuki

This spring marks my 20th year since coming to the city of Mino and learning the art of paper-making. Since then, I have encountered a certain situation several times when meeting with foreigners upon explaining that I have been creating paper by hand with traditional methods.

Unbelievable!” they would say.

I have been told that by numerous foreigners. In hearing them out I have learned that Japan is a country that is well-known for advanced technology in car manufacturing and electronics, so they cannot imagine that a Japanese person my age can still be making washi with his hands.

Continue reading ““Unbelievable!””

The Difference Between Washi and Machine-Made (Western) Paper

By Sugihara Yoshinao
Translations by Yuki

“What makes washi and machine-made (western) paper so different?”

There are many explanations for this argument, which can be classified into numerous sections. For example, grouping by materials, paper-making methods, and production location. This time, I will present to you one example.

Continue reading “The Difference Between Washi and Machine-Made (Western) Paper”

Washi Collection Books

By Ageta Tsuyoshi
Translations by Yuki

With 10 years in the making, this washi collection is limited edition, with English translations, and highly recommended for collectors or paper lovers, libraries, museums, and institutions. Order with us to avoid paying extra shipping costs from Japan.

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Taking Part in Recreating Ancient Paper

By Hasegawa Satoshi
Maker of Usu-Mino, Hon-Mino, and Cho-chin
Translated by Yona & Yuki

This summer, we were given an opportunity to work with the Tokyo University Historiography Department on their research of restoring paper used in ancient Japanese documents. Normally, paper cannot be produced in the summer, so this was just the right occasion. Papers from ancient times each have their own unique expression, so it was fascinating just to be able to observe each one.

This time, we attempted to cook Kozo fibers with wood ash in order to recreate these ancient papers. Wood ash leaves a different fragrant in the air than soda ash, quite like the smell of cocoa. When kozo bark is cooked until tender, it also looks as if it were smeared with ash. There were also unexpected occurences, but they became meaningful experiences for us. Upon completion of the paper, we can’t say we were completely satisfied with the results. We were able to cook with wood ash easier than we thought, on the other hand, beating the kozo fibers was unexpectedly difficult(due to the wood ash leaving Kozo fibers longer than if using caustic soda).

We had expected the tools used to make paper in those days to be different from now. But, trial after trial, we were able to come up with different ideas. Because we had to guess the methods used from several hundred years ago and what went on in the maker’s heads, we had to jump into the past in our discussions with the fellow artisans. We were deeply moved by it emotionally.

Opinions on the changes from washi making techniques since ancient times differ according to researchers, it also feels like no prominent theory has been agreed upon as of yet. I myself have had questioned the various theories from researchers until now. But participating in such experiments from a craftsman’s standpoint, I have come away with the impression that there are things I can help collaborate with. And with it, I hope to share with everyone the results.

Wood Ash Process

Drying Boards

Neri in the Summer

By Sugihara Yoshinao
Translations by Yona & Yuki

This summer, Japan has been hit by a record-breaking heat wave. Here, in my office in Fukui, we joke about how high the temperature will be, but we have actually been suffering from 97 degree weather for days on end. Weather becomes this hot also causes a very troubling issue with papermaking. That problem is in the “neri”, which is essential in making washi. Neri is very sensitive to high temperatures.This time, I would like to talk somewhat seriously about Neri. Washi is made from the bast fibers of Kozo, Mitsumata, and Gampi. Together with these ingredients, or rather more important in the assistance of washi making, is the neri. Since “neri” sounds like the word “nori” which means glue, it is mistaken that neri would have the same fastening glue effect. However, neri’s greatest benefit is the way that it acts as the dispersing agent in preventing the fibers from sinking in water.

Making paper without putting in neri, the liquid will flow straight down at the same as it is being scooped up. The washi technique of nagashisuki (rocking the suketa back and forth after scooping the water) is not possible no matter the number of times it is rocked. The reason western paper cannot be made as thin as washi surely has to be because neri is not used. Neri is effective when used with soft water in Japan, but is useless when used with European hard water. Originally, the papermaking technique was passed to Japan from China, and hemp was at first the main ingredient for paper.  This was still long before the discovery of the technique of using neri as a dispersing agent. Once discovered, the unique Japanese papermaking technique was established and from the Heian Period (794-1185) neri was used in papermaking.

As a dispersing agent, not only is the neri obtained from Tororo Aoi (plant from the hibiscus family) used, but also the neri taken from the bark of the Noriutsugi (panicled hydrangea). Even until now, Living National Treasure Mr. Ichibee Iwano (Kizuki hosho maker) uses a blend of both the Tororo Aoi and Noriutsugi. Higher viscosity (more stickiness) is necessary in making washi, so of course the desired effect of the dispersing agent is stickiness. However, once the papermaking process is over, this stickiness becomes an issue and it is ideal for the stickiness to disappear quickly as the paper is being dried. That is what this natural neri magnificently achieves. During papermaking it is sticky, but once the pressure of papermaking is over and the paper is being dried the next day, the viscosity magnificently disappears.

It is only high temperature that compromises the viscosity. Just by using the bare hands, the body temperature gradually decreases the stickiness. Then, there is this year’s heat wave. Echizen Washi papermakers are now forced to create fresh new neri everyday. Continually making paper of the same quality regardless of the various changes in weather temperature, climate, humidity level, and moisture is actually quite a difficult job to do.

Kochi International Hanga Triennale

by Tsuyoshi Ageta
Translation by Yuki

Since the first exhibition was held in 1990, the Kochi International Hanga Triennale has been in session every 3 years and if everything goes smoothly, the 8th exhibit will be in March 2011. However, there have been doubts because of the lack of funds. Many inquiries were made about the exhibition, and although the date will be later than scheduled, the 8th exhibition will officially be held in October 2011.

This international exhibition solicits hanga work from professionals, which has gained recognition throughout the years. Now, it is known as one of the most distinguished international exhibitions in the world.

The first prize winner receives 1 million yen, the second prize winner receives 500,000 yen. For winners of work made especially from Tosa washi, the Tosa Washi Prize is given, as well as other awards.

In an island nation such as Japan, and in an even smaller island as Kochi prefecture, how is it that an international exhibition can take place? The answer is because Kochi prefecture has long been the center of washi production, and this event strives for the internationalization of Tosa washi.

Many are encouraged to display their work in this exhibition. On top of that, the number of past participants in this event is as follows:

Year                         1st        2nd      3rd      4th      5th      6th      7th

Japanese                   492       451        390        392      473       614       533

International           664     1001        954      1035     900       901       849

Total # of                1156     1452      1344      1427     1373      1515      1382

**For an Exhibition Entry Form in English and information on our Tosa Washi papers, please contact us.