Washi is the term used to describe hand-made paper usually made from the bark fibers of one of three main types of shrubs: kouzo (paper mulberry), gampi, or mitsumata. Wood pulp is also sometimes employed. Except for gampi, which is used only in its wild form, all of the plants used are cultivated in Japan. Knowledge of making washi is traditionally said to have arrived from Korea in 610, with the Korean monk Donchou.
has been making washi all her
life. She learned the craft from her father who began the family business
about 70 years ago. Working with her son, Ms. Tomi still uses the same
methods that her father used in the early 1930s. Much of her paper is
made from the bark of local cedar trees, but the post card-sized pieces
are made from local gampi and inset with seasonal wildflowers, which grow
in the mountains around her home. In the fall, she produces large sheets
of cedar paper inset with warmly colored autumn maple leaves. She works
hard at her craft and sells her paper to some of the finest retailers
in cities like Kyoto and Osaka. In spite of much more demand than she
and her son can handle alone, she resists growth, preferring to live her
simple life. When we first met her, she had never heard of the Internet!
to begin browsing Tomi-san's hand-made washi paper.