Tozan washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Higashiyama, Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture. There are several opinions as to its origin, but it is presumed to have started in the late Heian period, when the Fujiwara clan in Hiraizumi (in present-day Iwate Prefecture) was defeated by the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. Some of the Fujiwara’s warriors, who escaped from Hiraizumi, settled down in the area around Higashiyama and began to make paper as one of their daily commodities. In the city of Ichinoseki, there is a town named “Kamiagari,” which means a paper producing village in Kanji, from which this town is thought to be the birthplace of Tozan washi paper.
Only locally grown paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. The original techniques have been precisely handed down to create high quality handmade washi paper, which is characterized by its natural color of paper mulberry, elegance, and durability. This simple-tasted paper is use for many purposes including Japanese sliding door paper, caligraphy, name cards and certificate paper. Tozan washi paper is a part of cultural heritage that was left by the Fujiwara clan of Hiraizumi.
The paper used for a census preserved at Shosoin Repository is thought to be Japan’s oldest paper. They are thought to have been made in Mino, Chikuzen and Buzen; thereby it is thought that a history of paper making in the Mino dates back to the Nara period (710-794).
Genuine Mino Paper is made from a superior grade of paper mulberry grown only in Ibaraki Prefecture. It is characterized by its traditional hand filtering method, not only by vertical shaking but also by horizontal shaking, by which all the fibers “knit” together leaving no evidence of the forming process on the surface.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), it was very popular especially for the sliding door of the traditional house. Its uniformly excellent quality was ideal for translucent paper screens.
Genuine Mino Paper is now used for sliding doors, documents that need to be preserved and conservation of cultural properties. Its high quality and depth of flavor attracts a lot of users. In 1976, the techniques of making Genuine Mino Paper were designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property. As the holders of this traditional technique, the members of the Genuine Mino Paper Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down their skills to the next generation.
Ecchu district, which is rich in high-quality water from the foot of the Northern Japanese Alps, has long been a production area of washi paper.
Ecchu washi is tough and flexible, and is used for many products from sliding paper doors and writing paper to paper lanterns, works of calligraphy and paintings, as well as prints and more than 100 kinds of dyed papers.
There is reference to Echhu washi in the Shosoin records, dating to the Nara period. Moreover, the Engishiki records from the Heian period mention that people paid their taxes using washi. Therefore, we can conclude that Ecchu washi has a long history.
Today, around Japan, there are many young people carrying on the traditions of Japanese paper, not only making dyed paper and classical washi using mulberry fiber, but developing new forms of paper handicraft, paper processed goods and souvenirs.
Edo karakami is a kind of Japanese paper that came to be used for decorating sliding doors, walls and folding screens in Edo buildings. Its origin is 'karakami', an imitation of 'mon-karakami', which was beautifully patterned paper imported from China in the Heian period.
At first, the nobility used this paper as rough paper for waka poetry. After the Middle Ages, it began to be pasted on sliding doors or screens.
In the Edo period, as the Tokugawa government developed the towns around Edo, the demand for karakami increased and it developed in various forms.
Much of Kyoto karakami is printed from woodblocks. On the other hand, Edo Karakami is printed using woodblock as well as many other techniques, such as stencil printing and stripe printing. These patterns have free and subtle designs reflecting the tastes of the Edo-based samurais and townspeople.
Paper filtering techniques had been developed in Uchiyama district in the northern part of Nagano Pref. for a long time. As this Uchiyama paper is strong and does not discolor, it is favored as paper for the sliding shoji screens. The origin of the paper making is unclear but it is said that Hagiwara Kiuemon, a resident of Uchiyama village had been to Mino to learn how to make paper. After he returned home, he began making paper and taught people how to make paper. Since then the people in this district have developed their original techniques including snow-bleaching technique, in which the locally grown kozo (paper mulberry) is steamed and peeled, and then spread on the snow to bleach the fibers. As the fibers of kozo are thick and strong, Uchiyama paper is suitable for the sliding shoji screens, paperhanging, painting, and calligraphy. The production center of the present time is Mizuho district in Iiyama City. There about 90 craftsmen are working by maintaining the tradition of 400 years.