Blessed with the abundant waters of Mt. Ishizuchi, the Saijo region of Ehime prefecture has long prospered as a production area for traditional Shusou Washi, a kind of handmade Japanese paper.
Even now, as automation continues to advance, the traditional nagashi-suki, which has been handed down through several generations, is still protected.
There are various different types of washi (traditional Japanese paper), but houshogami (traditional, white paper without creases) and danshi (paper made from mulberry bark) account for over 90% of the washi paper made in the whole of the country.
Currently, there are 6 locations where shusou handmade washi is still manufactured. We visited Yamamoto-ya, which was established in 1887.
This wet-looking mixture is the material used for making washi.
Creating one sheet at a time, the mixture is dissolved and scooped up diligently by the craftsmen and put onto screens.
Handmade washi paper feels good to the touch and has a warmth that cannot be created by machine.
Ms. Motomi, a 2nd-year craftsman, apparently became interested in handmade washi because her grandmother used to work at this workshop.
Watching her hands move nimbly is just fascinating!
Next, the damp paper that was scooped out onto the screens is piled up onto a shitoko (a kind of bamboo base for making washi).
Laying out the wet paper evenly and straight looks quite difficult.
The piled up shitoko are compressed and the moisture gradually squeezed out.
After this stage, each piece of paper is peeled off one by one. Once dry, they are finished.
They almost look like pure white towers, don’t they?
The finished products are shipped all over Japan.
The Washi Museum adjacent to the workshop sells postcards and envelopes among other products made from washi.
As it has a special warmth, it’s lovely to send a letter made from washi every now and again.
This is the product I liked the most.
With a kabuki inspired design, this is a pochibukuro (a decorative envelope often used for New Year’s monetary gifts, etc.). Each envelope design has a different expression.
Though machine-made, mass-produced washi is cheap and offers a wide variety of choice, the demand for washi continues to decline, which means that finding successors to carry on with the traditional manufacturing methods is becoming harder. But don’t you think that handmade products that exude warmth are just lovely?
If you come to visit, you’ll be able to experience and understand the attraction of handmade washi in greater depth.
Yamamoto-ya (Washi Museum)
Location: 743 Kuniyasu, Saijo city, Ehime prefecture
Business hours: 8.00-17.00
Holidays: Sundays / Obon (August 13th-17th) / New Year’s Holidays (December 28th – January 5th)
Reference URL: http://iyokannet.jp/front/spot/detail/place_id/4061/#head (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi
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