Awa Japanese Paper is a high quality traditional paper


Awa Japanese Paper is a craft with 1,300 years of history

Awa Japanese paper, also called Awa Washi, is a type of Japanese paper made mainly in Yoshinogawa City, Naga Town, Naga County, and Miyoshi City in Tokushima Prefecture. Awa washi has been made by craftsmen who have carried on the tradition. It has been used by many people because of its elegant and soft texture and its durability against water and tearing.

Traditionally, Washi has been indispensable for furniture and lighting used in Japan since ancient times, such as shoji screens and chochin lanterns. Its ability to allow light and air to pass through has made it an essential part of daily life. In recent years, new developments and activities have been actively pursued. In particular, Awa Japanese paper art paper is very popular among artists in Japan and abroad, and many art works have been produced.

Awa Japanese paper

One of the characteristics of Awa Washi is that it comes in a variety of shades. Paper of various shades and different textures is manufactured as “decorative paper. In addition to the main raw materials of washi, hemp and wood pulp are mixed. The openwork patterns are added to produce paper with different textures and characteristics.

Awa washi can be made by both hand or machine.

Handmade: Using the “tamezuki” and “nagashizuki” techniques used since ancient times. They produce washi with the characteristics of handmade paper. Thick and large washi that are not bound by conventional wisdom are also made by hand.

Machine-made: Washi is produced using kozo (paper mulberry) and mitsumata (mitsumata), which are the raw materials for traditional Japanese paper. The texture of the natural raw materials is utilized to produce beautiful and durable washi.

Another characteristic of Awa washi is its vivid and colorful “dyeing. Using the “post-dyeing” technique, in which the paper is dyed after it is finished, washi of various colors and patterns are produced. Post-dyeing techniques for Awa washi include rubbing, itajime, Sekka (snow flower) dyeing, and indigo dyeing.

Source: Creema

Backgrounds of Awa Japanese Paper

The history of handmade washi in Tokushima Prefecture dates back to the Nara period (710-794), when paper made by the Imobe clan was presented to the Imperial Court. During the Heian period (794-1185), a library was established in Kyoto and government paper was made. At this time, there were more than 40 countries that delivered paper to the government, and Awa’s washi was included.

In 1585, the government made efforts to promote industry, and in particular, protected and encouraged the kozo (paper industry). As a result of this encouragement, the papermaking industry in Tokushima Prefecture flourished. And the reputation of Awa handmade washi such as shakunagami, Nakagawa paper, Iga paper, Senkaku paper, Nanakusun paper, and Kosen paper became widely known throughout Japan.

After the Meiji Restoration, demand for paper increased dramatically with changes in consumer lifestyles. By the mid-Meiji period, the number of manufacturing households numbered 250 and the industry was at its peak. In 1885, the company established its first paper manufacturing cooperative to streamline its operations. In addition, to cultivate sales channels, Awa Washi exhibited its products at the World Expositions in Chicago and Paris, as well as at national expositions. It was awarded certificates and progress prizes.

However, in the Taisho era (1912-1926), the company was unable to compete with mass-produced machine-made paper, and was finally forced out of the market. Today, there is only one company dedicated to this craft. This company has continued to carry on the traditional techniques and preserve the tradition of Awa handmade washi. In 1970, it was designated as an intangible cultural asset by Tokushima Prefecture. Awa Washi was designated as a traditional craft by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry In 1976,

Manufacturing Methods and Processes

The main fibers used were kozo (paper mulberry), mitsumata, and gampi ligament fibers.

1. Harvesting the black bark

Kozo (paper mulberry) is cut into 4 shaku (about 1.5 meters) and steamed using a unique tool. The black bark is peeled off from the bottom toward the “ure” (the top of the tree) and bundled into handfuls. They which are then dried in a well-ventilated place. The black bark is kept in storage, and only the necessary amount is taken out for use. Or it is processed into white bark while waiting for the weather to warm up.

2. Black peel removal

Soak the dried skin in water for several hours or overnight. Remove the black skin by alternately stepping on the surface of the skin with the calf of the foot as if rubbing it. The bark (ligamentous part) is composed of three parts: black, blue, and white bark. The higher the quality of the paper, the more black and blue skins are removed, leaving only white skins.

3. Peeling

Using a knife, scrape off the green bark from the bottom toward the tip of the tree. Remove all buds, branch scars, and blemishes, as they will remain as waste. Dry and store in a cool, dark place.

4. Boiling and ripening

Before boiling, the fibers are invaded by running water for one day and night and then boiled in an alkaline solution. At 30 minutes after boiling, the top and bottom are turned over to avoid uneven cooking. Two hours after boiling, when the fine fiber tissue gradually opens up to spread out or can be torn off by pulling with the fingers, it is fully cooked.

5. Dusting

After steaming for a day and a night, the rice is soaked in running water to remove the scum (boiling liquid), and then the non-fibrous material is removed and dusted by hand. A basket is placed in the water to remove dust (scratches, buds, uneven cooking, and discolored areas). For white paper, bleaching is performed before this process.

6. Punching and Dissolving

The paper is carefully beaten on a stone or hardwood board with a beating stick to break the fibers apart one by one.

7. Stream Stitching

The “kake-nagashi” and “hatsumizu” are pumped in shallowly and manipulated quickly so that the fibers are spread thinly and evenly over the entire surface of the screen. The surface of paper is made. It is pumped in a little deeply, and the fiber is intertwined by moving the bamboo screen girder. Then, shaken and pumped until it becomes the desired thickness.

Awa Japanese paper

8. Tamezuki

The material with a lot of breakdowns made it possible to make a texture (quality of paper) with one pumping in the traditional method. However, nowadays, the paper is made from a less fragile material, which is used for nagashizuki, so “neri” is added to the process.

When paper is made, the bamboo screen is removed from the girder, and it is put down so that air may not be put between the girder and the paper floor board (shitaita). The bamboo screen, then, is peeled off from the front to the other side.

9. Pressing

After leaving the paper floor overnight and allowing the water to drain off naturally, it is sandwiched between slightly larger boards and dehydrated by gravity using a pressing machine. The paper is then dehydrated by gravity in a press between slightly larger boards.

10. Drying

Each sheet is then stretched on a drying board and dried in the sun or in a steam dryer.

Awa Japanese Paper
Source: AWAGAMI interior


Awa washi has developed in close contact with people’s daily lives, but as times have changed, the need for washi has once again declined. However, the market environment surrounding Awa Washi has changed dramatically as creators and artists have recognized the beauty of this traditional craft and incorporated it into their works. As more and more works of Awa Washi have been introduced to the world, the quality of Awa Washi has been recognized, and the need for products that are closely related to daily life as interior decoration has expanded once again. Awa washi, which takes the beauty of washi to the extreme, is a craft that can be considered a treasure of Japan.

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