The Unique Inomoto Kamisuki-jo
Inomoto Kamisuki-jo lies at the end of a twisty mountain road at an elevation of 400m up in the mountains of Haigyu, Nakacho in Tokushima Prefecture. With a long tradition of making paper, it is one of the highest elevated mills in Japan. They originally produced high-quality shoji paper, but now offer lessons in making paper by hand inside their 60 year-old renovated facility.
Lessons in making paper by hand are offered all over Japan, but Inomoto is one of the few places where participants can learn every step of the process, from tearing off mulberry tree bark, to drying the finished paper. The lesson is reasonably priced, and a must-try for anyone with an interest in handmade Japanese paper.
Authentic January Experience
Different species of trees such as mitsumata or ganpi are usually used in the making of Japanese paper, but here in Haigyu bark from the mulberry tree is used since it is common in this area. The entire paper-making process consists of about 10 steps, and it is no exaggeration to say that the true virtue of making paper by hand can only be found through experiencing the entire process, not only the final step of spreading the pulp thinly and drying it.
The best time of year to come and have a lesson is in January. It is tremendously cold at this time of year, but it is the only time that mulberry bark is harvested. The bark is steamed in pots, and the outer layer peeled off. After that, it is dried and then soaked in water for one night to make it soft. Going through this meticulous process, using the same traditional methods that the skilled and knowledgable artisans of old used, really makes each and every sheet of paper seem like a priceless piece of treasure.
During all other seasons, the lesson starts with peeling the outer layer off the bark, so summer might be a better alternative for those who are not too fond of the harsh winter cold. At the back of the paper mill there’s a private beach, or rather a private natural pool. The lovely cool mountain water is perfect for both adults and children to play in during summer.
Making Your Own Unique Paper
Making paper is much more difficult than it looks. However, the size of the bamboo mesh and wooden frame is a small and compact A4, so children also try it. You can make about 10 pieces of paper in one lesson.
If you want, you can also pick flowers and mix them into the pulp to make your own original paper.
You can use the paper however you like, but the people at Inomoto Kamisuki-jo recommend using it as letter paper. Come to this serene mountain village and experience Japanese country life for yourself first hand.
Address: 93-1 Inomoto Haigyu, Nakacho, Naka District, Tokushima Prefecture
Tel: 080-6389-9571 (NPO Hojin Awa Nouson Butai-no-kai)
Business Hours: Open only for reservations.
Pricing: 1-Day course: 4,000 yen per person. (Only groups of 3 or more are accepted.)
Reservations must be made one week in advance.
※There are no convenience stores nearby, so please bring your own food and drinks.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Kumiko Tobita
Kumiko Tobita I was born in 1973 and currently live in Tokushima Prefecture. I have been working at a publishing company in Tokushima for over 10 years now, and in addition to being the editor-in-chief of a monthly magazine, I also am involved in producing mooks, business pamphlets and websites. I always want to learn as fast as possible about delicious, fun, or new things. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about autobiographies, self-publication editing, or e-books. Since April 2015, I have been a part of an area development group, and my lifework involves regional resources and emigration measures.
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