Inshu washi (paper)

Country: Japan

The fact that the imperial court was supplied with paper from the province of Inaba (Inshu) is noted in the Engishiki, the Heian period (794-1185) document on official court dealings. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the making of Inshu Washi had become centred on two villages and a paper for the exclusive use of the local clan was being produced.

During the Edo period (1600-1868) the production of paper was officially encouraged, firstly with a view to providing enough paper for the clans but more specifically to provide a paper for the use of official clan business. This, too, was a spur to the production of Inshu Washi and, using such raw materials as paper mulberry which grew in the fields and mountains, paper making flourished on farms all over the country, especially in remote areas where agricultural output was low.

With a high reputation for quality, the papers for calligraphy and ink painting are especially famous. Paper for the room-dividing screens called fusuma is also produced to an extremely high standard. This paper is reputed to be of premium quality and particularly famous is the drawing paper and rice paper used for calligraphy and ink painting.

The manufacturing process is divided into a “cooking” stage whereby the plants used as raw materials are boiled, a “beating” stage whereby the boiled pulp is beaten and reduced to fine fiber, a “paper making” stage whereby the fibers dissolved in water are turned into paper and a “drying” stage; most activities in the above-mentioned stages are completed entirely by hand. All the techniques and methods used have been passed down from ancient times.

This entry is referenced from the website of The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries.

Further reading