Western papers are enough to wrap our hands around…
but then we enter the sphere of Japanese Papers.
Welcome to Washi world!
All too often, students visit Talas requesting “Rice Paper”.
I don’t know what that is, do you?

Washi-paper

In the Japanese Paper (or Washi) 101 handbook, papers can be broken down into
3 key fibers: Gampi, Kozo & Mitusmata.

Kozo: (or Mulberry) Used in approximately 90% of the washi made today. This deciduous shrub can grow to a height of 3-5meters, thus providing a very long fiber in the papermaking process.
Mitsumata: This bush originated in China, and can grow to a height of 1-1.5meters. The fibers are shorter than Kozo’s, and yield very fine papers.
Gampi: This bush grows to a height of 1-1.5m, it cannot be cultivated and is therefore rare and the most expensive of these 3 materials. The finished paper is somewhat translucent and has a shiny texture.
Now that you are familiar with the key fibers in Washi , what distinguishes them from most Western papers?

FIBERS: Washi is made from long natural fibers (see above), which are light and strong in characteristics. They are usually pure in form with little or no additives. Special beating methods are used to facilitate the separating of fibers, and their length remains unaffected. On the contrary, Western Papers are mostly made from shorter fibers like cotton linter or paper pulp. Sizing, filler etc. are often times added to these plant materials depending on the particular paper and its function.
COLOR: Traditional washi papers are often bleached by the sun, water, or snow using methods which date back for centuries. Western papers often employ either chemical & natural methods of bleaching.PRODUCTION: Sheet production is another very important distinction to acknowledge. Washi is produced using the Nagashisuki method. This means that paper is built up layer by layer utilizing a rocking motion. Fibers are suspended in a liquid mixture with the aid of Neri. Western papers are very different in that they are often formed in just one dip.DRYING: Drying is another variable that can effect a papers characteristics. In Washi production, sheets are brushed onto drying boards. This means low shrinkage, and papers dry incredibly flat. Western paper is hung on rope to dry, resulting in high shrinkage, which yields in a thicker, denser sheet of paper.Watch the video below to see Washi production & boarding in a more commercial setting.

Japanese papers can vary quite a bit, but can be easily distinguished from that of its Western counterpart.

It is important to understand these basic principles of Japanese Paper & papermaking before choosing a paper that best suits your needs.

Want to see and feel the different fibers in their final paper form?
No worries, we just so happen to sell a Japanese Paper Sample book.

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