Currently, what kind of things is washi being used for?

Shoji screens, fusuma sliding doors, chigiri-e paper-collage, dolls, calligraphy, printmaking, india-ink painting, Japanese painting, kimono storage, kites, frottage, restoration (for drawings or documents), wrapping of sweets, wrapping of cut flowers or potted plants, postcards, envelopes, stationery, business cards, and more.

Historically, what kind of things was washi used for?

Paper garment (kamiko and shifu), lanterns, lamp stands, fans, wallets, medicine pouches, cushions, umbrellas, cards, maps, books, stencil-dyeing, drawings, calligraphy, account books, warm nursery paper, typewriter paper, copy paper, painting paper, and paper used by government offices, among many other uses.

What are the merits of washi?

Washi is thin but strong (difficult to tear), lightweight, pliant, warm, easy to colour, permeable, absorbs water or ink readily, and is easily compatible with other materials, among many other merits. Also, the interval between harvests for the main raw materials is short (one to three years), allowing it to be made without using strong chemicals, so it is easy on the environment (western paper such as newspaper uses the core of the tree, so the interval between harvests is long and it requires strong chemicals to process).

What kind of problems are facing washi makers?

Because of changes in lifestyle, washi has come to be used less and less. There are few successors for paper craftspersons, the number of people producing good quality domestic raw materials is decreasing, and there are few successors to the makers of tools and equipment for papermakers. In these and other ways the washi makers are struggling.

Where is Tosa washi being made?

As of December 1, 2015, there were twenty-three studios making washi by hand in Kochi prefecture. Among these, ten were in Ino town, eight were in Tosa city, and five were in other areas. Also, there were twelve more factorys producing washi by machine.

What is the reason so much paper is made in Ino town?

Niyodo River provides an abundance of clean water. Also, the raw materials for making washikozo and mitsumata – came to be cultivated in and around the Ino town area. Another big reason is that highly developed production and tool-making skills, developed mainly by Genta Yoshii from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, were passed down from generation to generation.

What are the special characteristics of Tosa Washi?

There are other production areas where only calligraphy papers or only shoji screen papers are produced, but one of the specialties of Tosa is that as well as these types, many other varieties, such as Japanese painting paper, printmaking paper, chigiri-e paper-collage paper, mounting paper, conservation and restoration papers for cultural assets, and cut flower wrapping paper are also made. Also, another characteristic is that papers like Tosa Tengujōshi, Lightweight Gampi Paper, and Technical Drawing Paper are produced using excellent skill, yielding papers of uniform weight that are thin but strong and difficult to tear. In particular, Tosa Tengujōshi paper is only 0.03mm thick, and it can be said to be the thinnest handmade paper in the world. In 2001, Sajio Hamada of Ino town was recognized as a preserver of an Important Intangible Cultural Asset (Living National Treasure) for the skills required to produce Tosa Tengujōshi.

What kind of raw materials are used for making washi?

Historically hemp was also used, but since the Meiji period the main papermaking materials that are used are the bark of the kozo, mitsumata, and gampi plants. Kozo is a deciduous shrub of the Moraceae (also known as Mulberry) family, harvested every year in early winter after its leaves have fallen, and steamed to remove the bark. Mitsumata is a deciduous shrub of the Thymelaeaceae (also known as Daphne) family, harvested every three years after planting seedlings, and steamed to remove the bark. Kochi prefecture was once the leading producer of both materials, but due in part to the aging of the population in the production area, in recent years the production quantity has decreased significantly. Gampi is also a deciduous shrub of the Thymelaeaceae family, but because growth is slow and cultivation is difficult, it is collected in the wild. Similar to mitsumata, gampi paper has a fine textured surface and lustre, and gampi is especially known as a material for high-grade paper such as art papers. Based on the use of the paper, materials other than those above, such as straw, bamboo, abaca, hemp, and wood pulp are also used.