The Future of Washi (Paper)

Washi paper

Washi cufflinks
Image by craftapalooza via Flickr
Washi paper brooch
Image by craftapalooza via Flickr

Here is the last installment from the article entitled: World Papers and Washi. In the reference section of this blog post, you can find the link to the parent site from which this article was printed in full.

Located below, find other sections under this title posts previously under the blog, Mysterious Japan.

The Discovery of Paper:

The Development of Japanese Washi:

Washi and Its Reputation:

■Old yet new: the future of washi
 Today’s information society has raised a number of issues relating to the future of paper. Despite the growth of new electronic media, the consumption of paper is increasing, which in turn has led to such environmental problems as reductions in forest resources and increased waste. Washi has also had to face the power of economics. Having been replaced in many households by plastic utensils, it retains its unique raison d’ere largely in traditional events and in the hobbies that enrich people’s spiritual lives. Fortunately, there has been renewed interest in the aesthetic values of washi. Paper’s versatility has been highlighted by the increased popularity of the material as a new art medium. Originating in the United States and quickly spreading to the rest of the world, this type of art regards paper as more than a flat surface to be worked upon. Instead, paper fiber is considered an art material in itself and a catalyst for the creative process. Other materials may be integrated with the pulp to form three-dimensional shapes that may be further folded, dyed or torn. Techniques such as collage, assemblage, flottage and papier-colle(the pasting of newspaper or wallpaper) are also used. Combining paper with fabric, leather, metals, and other materials in new and uninhibited ways has been accepted by artists worldwide as a new field of plastic art, and through this, washi has once again become a focus of attention. The plastic art of paper has deep roots in Japan, where paper itself is appreciated as a work of art. Dyed paper in a range of colors, sukimoyo-gami (where the pattern is an internal part of the paper itself and is created during the formation process), paper  incorporating flowers and plants, paper folded or cut into shapes, crumpled paper, and paper strings – wide variety of paper products are made into both furniture and furnishings to add convenience and beauty to life. It might also be noted that Japan’s recycling of waste paper began in the eighth century. As people rediscover the beauty of antique folding fans, round fans, paper lanterns, paper-shaded table lamps, bamboo and paper umbrellas, papered sliding doors and screens, standing screens, and other paper products, these articles serve as a source of modern motifs for interior decoration and installations. Washi is a highly suitable material for these projects because of its strength, and the paper used can be recycled. Some have even named this new trend of paper art “the renaissance of paper” Plants thrive as long as water, carbon dioxide, nutrients and sunlight are available. They also provide all living things with the oxygen needed for life. After being consumed, they revert to their origins, water and carbon dioxide. With this cycle in mind, we should change our way of thinking from one of casually using paper because it is available to one of using paper for purposes only paper can meet. Furthermore, in addition to promoting forestation projects, research must be conducted into the use of such non-wood materials as kenaf, an annual plant native to India and other parts of the world, and how to deal with lignin, a natural substance contained in plants that breaks down paper and thus is an unneeded byproduct. Japan’s history of respect for paper and artistic use of paper offers suggestions for the future.



Old Yet New: The Future of Washi:

Washi and Its Reputation

Nederlands: Kusumoto Taki (1807-1865), alias S...
Image via Wikipedia

Washi paper is interesting, beautiful, fun to make and an art form with many possibilities.

Here is the third installment of “Living with Washi”. Links to the other two posts are here:

“The Development of Washi”:

The Discovery of Paper”:

In the Reference section (below) of this blog post, you can find the link to the parent site from which this article was printed in full.

Robert C. Williams Paper Museum A tool for mak...
Image via Wikipedia
Robert C. Williams Paper Museum A tool for mak...
Image via Wikipedia
■Washi and its reputation
 Towards the middle of the 16th century, Luis FROIS, a Portuguese missionary, lived in Japan and later published a book about Japanese history based on his experience. In 1590, the first Japanese book using movable type, the Christian Edition, was published on gampi paper. This paper was more beautiful and durable than any paper Europeans had known and they called it “plant parchment”. A Japanese-Portuguese dictionary of this period includes the names of many kinds of Japanese paper, demonstrating the extent of its interest to westerners. The Netherlands gained independence in the late 16th century and at the same time began trading with Japan. After the Edo (Tokugawa) shogunate adopted its policy of isolation, only the Netherlands was allowed contact with the country, and the offices of Dutch merchants in Nagasaki were Japan’s only window of trade with the outside world. When the Dutch painter Rembrandt harmensz VAN RIJN noticed that the paper wrapping lacquerware from Japan was both durable and beautiful, he immediately placed an order for washi, using it to create many masterpieces of etching. These works received great acclaim, and through this attention Japanese paper became widely known.  Engelbert KAEMPFER, a German doctor on a Dutch ship, came to Japan in 1690 and observed Japan from the point of view of a natural historian. After returning home, he wrote the Amoennitalum Exoticarum. One chapter of this account, entitled “History of Japan”, served as a guide to Japan and Japanese paper. Carl Peter THUNBERG, a Swedish botanist who came to Japan in 1774, gave a detailed account of Japanese papermaking and its raw materials in his book on the flora of Japan. Philipp Franz VON SIEBOLD, a German doctor who came to Japan in the early 19th century, disseminated information on Japan upon his return to Europe. He also brought back with him a great deal of Japanese paper and numerous paper products. When Japan opened its borders in 1852, European nations sent delegates to establish diplomatic relations. Rutherford ALCOCK, the first British minister to Japan, praised washi when describing Japanese arts and crafts in his famous work, The Capital of the Tycoon. He encouraged the exhibition of Japanese products, including washi, at the World Exposition in London in 1862. Washi also attracted the attention of the world at the Paris Expo in 1867.



Washi and its Reputation:

Katsushika Hokusai Part IV “Kachô-e”

Hokusai kacho-e

Katsushika Hokusai‘s studies of birds and flowers, an artistic genre called kachô-e, are the lesser known of all his works. Kachô-e were popular in the early eighteenth century (1720s-1750s) with the Torii school of print makers. Hokusai was the first to develop kachô-e as a truly independent theme for the single-sheet print format.

Hibiscus and Sparrow

Lilies - Katsushika Hokusai -


Bell-Flower and Dragonfly - Katsushika Hokusai - www.katsushikahokusai.orgBell Flower and Dragonfly

Orange Orchids - Katsushika Hokusai -

Orange Orchids

Mount Fuji with Cherry Trees in Bloom - Katsushika Hokusai -

Mount Fuji with Cherry Tree

Plum Blossom and the Moon - Katsushika Hokusai -

Plum Blossom and the Moon

Cranes on a Snowy Pine - Katsushika Hokusai -

Cranes on a Snowy Pine

Peonies and Butterfly - Katsushika Hokusai -

Peonies and Butterfly

Poppies - Katsushika Hokusai -


Branch of Plum - Katsushika Hokusai -

Branch of Plum


Attribution of Hokusai’s Kacho-e

The Art of Katsushika Hokusai Part III

When he was 12, his father sent him to work in a bookshop and lending library, where the books were made from wood-cut blocks. Two years later, he became an apprentice to a wood-carver. He worked here until he turned 18. After this, was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunshō,  a ukiyo-e artist. Ukiyo-e focused on images of the courtesans and Kabuki actors.

After Shunshō’s death in 1793, Hokusai began exploring French and Dutch copper engravings. He changed the subjects of his works, focusing more on landscapes and images of the daily Japanese life. A change that was a breakthrough in ukiyo-e. Next, he began to produce brush paintings, called surimono.

In 1811,  he created the Hokusai Manga. His later sketches and caricatures influenced the modern form of today’s manga. In all there are 12 volumes that include thousands of drawings.

Plum Blossom and the Moon - Katsushika Hokusai -

“Plum Blossoms and the Moon

Cranes on a Snowy Pine - Katsushika Hokusai -

“Crane on a Snowy Pine”

“Drawing of a Tengu”


“Courtesan. Painting on silk”


“Old Tiger in the Snow”

White Shell (Shiragai) - Katsushika Hokusai -

White Shell (Shiragai)”

Horse Talisman (Mayoke) - Katsushika Hokusai -

“Horse Talisman (Mayoke)”

Surimono Uma (No) Senbetsu. Cadeau D'Adieu - Katsushika Hokusai -

Surimono Uma (no) Senbetsu

Surimono Anba Umafubuki. Cheval D'Arcons Et Bardane - Katsushika Hokusai -“Surimono Anba Umafukuki”

Katsushika Hokusai, The Complete Works

The Art of Katsushika Hokusai Part II “Journey to the Waterfalls in All the Provinces”

Hokusai, self portrait from 1839.
Hokusai, Self Portrait 1839 Image via Wikipedia

“Shokoku taki meguri” are woodblock prints created from views of the most famous waterfalls in Japan and published in 1832. These “Oban yoko-e prints are fluid and alive, contrasting the breathtaking  majesty of nature with the small and fragile human forms nearby. The idealistic images take the viewer to a place found in the vivid imagination of Katsushika Hokusai. So exquisite are the details that one can almost hear the tumbling water crash and roar as its foaming mass sprays the air and crawls over the rocks below .

Oban  is one of three popular print sizes, oban being 10 by 15 inches/25.4 by 38 centimeters in size. Yoko-e is used for a print in the landscape format. Other popular print sizes are  Chuban yoko-e, 7.5 inches by 10/19 centimeters by 25.5, and Aiban yoko-e, 9 by 3inches/22.5 by 34.5 centimeters.

“Kiyo Waterfall by the Kannon Shrine at Sakanoshita, Tokaido Road

“Roben at Oyama in Sagami Province

“Yoro Waterfall in Mino Province

“Amida Waterfall on the Kiso Road”

“Aoigaoka Waterfall in Edo

“The Falls at Ono on the Kiso Road”

“The Waterfall at Yoshino Where Yoshitsune Washed His Horse”

“Kirifuri Waterfall on Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province


Visipix: A world center for visual inspiration

Viewing Japanese Prints/Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Artelino Japanese Prints

Fuji Arts/A Tour of Japanese Waterfalls (Shokoku taki meguri)

Minamoto no Yoshitune

The Art of Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849) Part 1

Katsushika Hokusai is a Japanese artistukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. An expert on Chinese painting, he is best-known for his woodblock print series entitled: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

File:Tsunami by hokusai 19th century.jpg

The The Great Wave off Kanagawa

File:Red Fuji southern wind clear morning.jpgSouth Wind, Clear Sky (also known as Red Fuji)

File:Bay of Noboto.jpg

Fuji Bay of Noboto

File:Asakusa Honganji temple in th Eastern capital.jpg

Asakusa Hongan-ji temple in the Eastern capital [Edo]

File:Fujimi Fuji view field in the Owari province.jpg

View Field in Owari Province


Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji