Washi Paper Making
Japanese Washi paper, “和紙” has been a traditional craft dating back over 1300 years. Originating in China, Washi was used by Buddhist monks when they were writing sacred sutras. These monks eventually brought the culture to Japan, and the art of Japanese washi paper making was born.
Although the roots of washi are from China, the style and craft that we know today is strictly Japanese. This is due to the evolution of washi making over the years, as Japan significantly improved all aspects of the process. Japanese washi paper is known for being long lasting and versatile. Washi paper can last over 1000 years in the open, while traditional western paper can only last 100 years if exposed to the air.
The influence of Washi is seen in so many aspects of Japanese culture. It can be used to write on, print on, and is also used for traditional paper crafts, such as origami “折り紙”. Washi is also used in everyday lifestyle items such as Shoji “障子” doors, Andon “行灯” floor lanterns, and Chouchin “提灯” hanging lanterns. The functionality and longevity of washi is due to the strength of natural ingredients used to make it.
Washi paper making is considered to be an art due to the skill it requires to prepare the materials correctly. Kozo, Hemp, or Mitsumata plant fibers are traditionally used to make washi paper, however there are many Japanese plants that are adaptable to becoming washi paper. The ingredients for the paper must first be harvested from the earth, requiring time and patience. Once gathered, the plants must be prepped in a specific way for it to be able to become washi paper.
Due to the time consuming nature of papermaking, it was traditionally done in winter. Farmers had more time this season as it was too cold for crops to grow, but the materials required for washi were readily available. These historic farmers became the artisans that developed the washi paper we know and love today.
The delicate process of preparing Kozo and Mitsumata plant fibers is split into several steps, requiring several days to be completed. First, the farmers have to harvest, clean, and then steam the plants. Next, the bark is removed from the plants, and left out to dry. Once the bark has completely dried out, it is immersed in pure water, boiled, and then beaten into pulpy fibers by hand. Finally, when the pulpy solution has been achieved, artisans can finally sheet the material by dipping a large mat into the water. The mat is shaken to allow the fibers to intertwine and the excess water is drained off. The process is repeated until the desired thickness is achieved. The paper is then left out overnight until it is dried.
The finished product is elegant and refined, and is still practiced in Japan to this day. At Maple in Moon we honor the culture of Washi by wrapping all of our products in the traditional paper, ensuring that our product arrives at your door in a simple, but tasteful package.