Learn About Machine Made Japanese Washi Paper

Traditionally handmade washi is our passion, but that does not mean we don't admire and find great uses for machine made Japanese papers as well. Sometimes it has to do with price point or size and these papers are beautiful in their own right.

It was wonderful to come across this video fo the process of making Japanese paper by machine. It is also a process to be admires and hope you will enjoy the video from the Marujyu Paper Company.

Japanese Artist Sculpts Figures With Japanese Washi Paper

Washi Paper Sculptures in Matsumoto Japan


Matsumoto, a scenic Japanese city of about 250,000, sits in a wide, fertile valley between the northern Japan Alps and the Utsukushigahara Plateau. For most of the year, its major draws are its castle — Japan’s longest-standing, which, with five black-and-white tiers and a shiny wood interior, is a remarkable work of 16th-century craftsmanship — and the wealth of opportunities in the surrounding mountains for hikers, those who enjoy snow sports and lovers of hot-spring bathing. (from The Japan Times)

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

"In the Ote district near the castle, at the Kamiyakata Shimayu paper company, proprietress Eiko Ito sculpts fantastic demons and princes from thick Japanese washi paper." The Japan Times

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

Image: Kamiyakata Shimayu Paper Company

Yuzen and Chiyogami · What is the Difference?

Yuzen and Chiyogami - What's the Difference?

Yuzen patterns were originally designed for the textile industry in Kyoto where the production of cloth for kimonos reached its zenith. Yuzen designs were very elaborate, and included a lot of gold.

Chiyogami is a specific word developed to describe the graphic, repetitive designs applied to paper in the Edo period. Originally these patterns were printed by woodblock for use in paper doll and small accessory making. In the twentieth century, these patterns began to be applied using silkscreens and this continues today.

Today, as Yuzen textile patterns join the traditional Chiyogami ones on paper, both terms are used interchangeably. We have chosen “Chiyogami” simply because it was the term originally created to refer to paper (-gami means paper).

Chiyogami Handscreened Patterns on Japanese Paper

To see a great assortment of Washi Arts Chiyogami / Yuzen, go to http://www.washiarts.com/shop-chiyogami/

What is Washi?

Washi is the Japanese word for the traditional papers made from the long inner fibres of three plants. Wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper.

Though paper was originally made in China in the first century, the art was brought to Japan in 610 AD by Buddhist monks who produced it for writing sutras.

By the year 800, Japan's skill in papermaking was unrivalled, and from these ancient beginnings have come papers unbelievable in their range of colour, texture and design.

It was not until the 13th century that knowledge of papermaking reached Europe - 600 years after the Japanese had begun to produce it.

By the late 1800's, there were in Japan more than 100,000 families making paper by hand. Then with the introduction from Europe of mechanized papermaking technology and as things "Western" became sought after including curtains (not shoji) and French printmaking papers (not kozo), production declined until by 1983 only 479 papermaking families were left. Today the few remaining families struggle to compete in the world market with handmade papers from India, Thailand and Nepal, where a lower cost of living makes it possible to produce papers more cheaply.



The inner barks of three plants — kozo, mitsumata and gampi — all native to Japan, are used primarily in the making washi.

Kozo (paper mulberry) is said to be the masculine element, the protector, thick and strong. It is the most widely used fibre, and the strongest. It is grown as a farm crop, and regenerates annually, so no forests are depleted in the process.

Mitsumata is the "feminine element": graceful, delicate, soft and modest. Mitsumata takes longer to grow and is thus a more expensive paper. It is indigenous to Japan and is also grown as a crop.

Gampi was the earliest and is considered to be the noblest fibre, noted for its richness, dignity and longevity. It has an exquisite natural sheen, and is often made into very thin tissues used in book conservation and chine-collé printmaking. Gampi has a natural 'sized' finish which does not bleed when written or painted on.

Other fibres such as hemp, abaca, rayon, horsehair, and silver or gold foil are some-times used for paper or mixed in with the other fibres for decorative effect.

Methods of Production

Branches of the (kozo, gampi or mitsumata) bush are trimmed, soaked, the bark removed, and the tough pliant inner bark laboriously separated, cleaned, then pounded and stretched.

The addition of the pounded fibre to a liquid solution, combined with tororo-aoi (fermented hibiscus root) as a mucilage, produces a paste-like substance when it is mixed.

It is this "paste" which is tossed until evenly spread on a bamboo mesh screen (called a su) to form each sheet of paper. The sheets are piled up wet, and later laid out to dry on wood in the sun or indoors on a heated dryer.


As Japan rushes with the rest of the world into the 21st Century, and more modern technologies take over, machines produce similar-looking papers which have qualities very different from authentic washi. As of the fall of 2008, there remained fewer than 350 families still engaged in the production of paper by hand.