“Washi,” the traditional Japanese handmade paper, was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in November 2014.
While the registered products are Hosokawashi from Saitama Prefecture, Honminoshi from Gifu Prefecture and Sekishubanshi from Shimane Prefecture, washi is an integral part of Japanese life. Washi is often used for gift-wrapping, conveying a luxurious touch to even the most simple present, but is also commonly used for everything from woodblock prints to lamp shades.
Kyukodo store, in Tokyo’s downtown Ginza area, was established in 1663. While its website is in Japanese, you can browse their pages for images of a wide variety of items the store carries that is made of washi.
However, socks, towels and baby shoes are among some of the modern uses of washi, taking advantage of the paper’s lightweight and water-absorbent qualities.
In making washi, artisans use traditional techniques – dating back to the 8th Century – to make paper by hand with mulberry or other plant fibers. The techniques are passed down from generation to generation.
The Awagami family has been producing washi in Tokushima, Japan, for eight generations.
The Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking at Georgia Tech hosts a virtual tour of washi-making.
Meanwhile, in Mino, Gifu Prefecture, the home and workshop of a couple who devoted their entire lives to washi-making are being historically preserved and will be opened to the public in March 2016.
Why not add a taste of the Orient to your gifts by wrapping them in washi paper?