Sometimes called Japanese papyrus, washi is a thick, strong type of paper made from the inner bark of specific Japanese trees or bushes. The overall process of making just a few sheets of washi paper can take days and is based on traditional techniques, so washi has become a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage for Japan.
However, if you would like to experience washi making, you can join workshops that focus in on the part where you make the actual paper!
Using a sort of sieve, you dip it into a water and tree pulp mixture. You then jiggle it up-down, side-to-side to get the excess water through the sieve and to even out the pulp.
Next, you get to decorate your washi with various materials – generally leaves. Before adding dyes and gold and silver leave pieces, you have to pour a sort of glue over the leaves so they don’t move much when adding the dyes.
After you finish decorating, you simply put your name on your work and wait 20 minutes for them to dry!
A simple process that can cost a little as 1000 yen depending on the size of the project.
If you’d like a lesson in the full washi making process from a local artist, check out Mika Horie’s Facebook and Instagram – she does workshops in the late summer in the Takigahara area of Komatsu City. During the workshop, you can to experience removing the inner bark from branches, mash the inner bark into pulp for the paper, and then make the actual paper. Ms. Horie also speaks English, so you can ask her questions about washi and her art!