Washi (handmade paper) has a long history in Japan. The Shosoin (National Treasure House) has a 1200-year-old book in which every page is cut from a different washi. The famous Eishiro Abe, of Yakumo Village, did research on that paper and thereafter, due to his own paper-making work, he was designated a Human National Treasure by the Japanese government. Once you have seen washi, you will never forget it or find anything more beautiful. Mitsumata paper was once used for money; Gampi paper, a very fine paper, is used for writing and painting; Kozo paper is used for official documents, other im portant papers, and some art, because its fibers are longest and strongest of all the washi.


Handmade paper is tough, bug-proof, and really versatile. Sometimes it is dyed after the sheets are dry, instead of during the paper-making process. Washi patterns and designs can be controlled by folding techniques before dyeing! Dyeing only the edges of the folds can create fantastic, heart-warming designs so beautiful they can be framed, or used as center pieces.


Washi is used for paper screens, paper screen doors (shoji), and during the last war, even balloons were made from washi to carry bombs to America. The ones that got there only started some forest fires. Strings of the paper were made and woven into pipe cases, boxes, and other accessories. These were lacquered and lasted for centuries. Some of the fiber was used for clothes – even the lovely kimono.


Eishiro Abe, a Human National Treasure, made a suit of washi! What a beautiful product of nature! As with the other three of Japan’s four precious plants (tea, lacquer and silk-mulberry), washi pollutes nothing, has no waste product, and contributes to the beauty, peace, and warmth of life.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our manufactured products could be as fine and suitable for human life as these four lovely, useful plants? They show the heart of the Japanese people and their deep love of nature! In my eyes, washi is the most outstanding of all for its natural beauty!


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