Washi or Wagami is a type of paper made in
Japan. Washi is commonly made using fibers from the ganpi plant,
mitsumata plant, or the paper mulberry but also can be made using
bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat.
Washi is generally tougher than paper made from
wood pulp and it is used in many traditional arts. Origami, Shodo,
Ukiyoe were all produced using washi. Washi was also used to make
various everyday goods like clothes, interior goods, and toys as
well as a sacred cloth of Shinto priest, a statue of Buddha, and
a wreath for winners in the 1998 Winter Paralympics. Washi was developed
from the traditional way of paper making in China.
Making of Washi
The process needed to make washi is similar to that of paper, but
fewer chemicals are used to make it. Washi making is a long and
intricate process often undertaken in the cold weather of winter.
It is traditionally the winter work of farmers.
Until the early 20th century, washi was used in applications where
wood pulp paper or other materials would be used outside of Japan.
This is not entirely because it was cheaper, but the unique characteristics
of washi made it a better material than others. This is only a partial
list as washi can be used for many purposes.
Types of Washi
With enough processing, almost any grass or tree can be made into
a washi. Gampi, mitsumata, and paper mulberry are three popular
sources used to make washi.
Ganpishi - In ancient times, it was called
Hishi.Ganpishi has a smooth, shiny surface and is used for
books and crafts.
Kozogami - Kozogami is made from paper mulberry and it is the
most widely made type of washi. It has a toughness closer to a
cloth than a paper and does not weaken significantly when treated
to be water resistant.
Mitsumatagami - Mitsumatagami has an ivory colored, fine surface
and is used for shodo as well as printing. It was used to print
paper money in Meiji period.