Ozu Washi is one of the most high quality papers


Ozu washi, one of Japan’s finest washi

Ozu Washi is handmade washi produced in Uchiko Town, Kita County, Ehime Prefecture. This traditional Paper is made using water from the Oda River, the clearest river in Shikoku. And it is produced using the traditional washi making method called Nagashizuki.

The feature of Ozu Japanese paper is thin with little unevenness, yet it is very strong, making it especially valued as a high-grade washi for calligraphy. In addition to the quality of the finished product, Ozu washi is produced three to four years after repeatedly shrinking and expanding in respond to the temperature and humidity fluctuation. This phenomena result in a high paper density.  The tightness makes the paper a unique “withering” quality producing brilliant color and line. Because of the high quality,  it is highly favored by calligraphers throughout Japan.

A traditional craft that has established a brand of high-grade Japanese paper

Ozu washi is thin, strong, and has a reputation for being even and consistent, making it a favorite of calligraphers throughout Japan. In addition, shoji (a product of paper) is used in temples, tea ceremony rooms, and high-class residences. Thus, Ozu Washi has established itself as a high-class Japanese paper. These traditional crafts are the result of techniques passed down over many years and people’s commitment to high quality. Recently, artistic washi decorated with gold leaf as “Gilting washi” has also been developed. The new style is gaining popularity in France and other countries.

Japanese paperwork
Souce: Komorebi

History of Ozu Washi

The history of Ozu washi is long, described as  “paper of Iyo”, found in the Engi-shiki, a book written in the  Heian period (794-1185). Although the production has continued from Heian period, the present form started in mid-Edo period. The then lord of the Ozu domain, Kato Yasuoki, invited a monk from Echizen, Shusho Zenjomon, to become a papermaking master.

With his technical guidance, papermaking developed as an industry in the Ozu domain. The development of the industry was so great that paper bureaus were established in the production areas. Ozu washi produced by the Ozu Clan was transported to nearby Osaka, one of Japan’s leading commercial centers.  The craft increasingly became valuable. Ozu washi is “Japan’s best quality” washi. This is how Ozu Washi was described in the a book “Keizai Yoroku” written in 1827.

During the Meiji and Taisho periods, paper mills lined the streets and the number of paper makers exceeded 430. The production of Ozu washi also reached its peak. However, the paper industry declined rapidly after World War II due to the effects of mechanization and industrialization. Even so, the tradition of Ozu washi is still supported by those who preserve the traditional handmade method of papermaking. In October 1977, Ozu washi was designated as a traditional craft.

Manufacturing Method For Ozu Washi

1. Soaking and boiling

This process is used to soften the raw materials, kozo (paper mulberry), mitsumata , and gampi. After soaking in water for several days to soften the paper, soda ash and other ingredients are added and the paper is boiled in a kettle. This boiling process removes excess material from the washi and makes the fibers easier to loosen.

2. Removal of dirt and bleaching

The paper is rinsed in water to remove impurities and debris dissolved by the boiling process. After rinsing, the fish is exposed to water and sunlight in a tank for about one week to remove the stink. After removing the yawn, the bleaching liquid, water, and raw materials are mixed together and spread out to bleach the material. Washi with a brownish color, which is common, is unbleached washi.

3. Rinsing and beating

After bleaching, the paper is carefully rinsed in water to remove the chemicals. This is because chemicals left on the paper will cause it to deteriorate. After rinsing, the washi is carefully picked up to remove any debris. After the trash is removed, a machine called a beater is used to beat the paper to break up the fibers. Once the fibers are broken up, it is time to start the papermaking process.

Ozu japanese paper
Source: https://www.we-love-uchiko.jp/spot_suburbs/spot_k5/

4. Paper making

The raw materials, glue made from tororoaoi, and water are placed on a boat, mixed well, and then the paper is threaded using a sudare with a girder attached. There are two main types of handmade washi: nagashi-suki and tame-suki. Ozu washi is also made by nagashi-suki.

Nagashi-suki is a method in which mixed materials are scooped into a sudare, and the sudare is shaken both forward and backward to produce a uniform sheet of paper. NAGASHI-SUKI is done using not only the arms but also the whole body, including the legs and hips. When washi of uniform thickness is produced, the sudare are removed from the girders and gently stacked.

5. Pressing

After the washi has been sukiyaki finished, it is left to rest overnight before being pressed to remove the water. This process is carried out slowly and carefully so as not to damage the shape of the washi. The pressing time varies depending on the type of washi, and can take up to 3 hours for shoji paper or 24 hours for calligraphy paper.

6. Drying

After dehydration is complete, the paper is dried. Depending on the type of washi, the paper is dried in the sun on drying boards or in a drying room, but Ozu Washi uses a dryer. Each sheet of washi is attached to a stainless steel plate in the dryer and brushed out quickly and carefully to prevent wrinkling. By the time the stainless steel plate is full of washi, the first piece of washi is dry, so it is gently peeled off and stacked. In the empty space, wet washi is pasted again.

7. Sorting and cutting

The dry washi is checked for thickness, unevenness, tears, etc., and if there is any dust on it, it is removed. After sorting, the paper is cut according to specifications, and Ozu washi is completed. Depending on the type of washi, a “dosa-iki” (a dosa liquid mixed with water, glue, and alum is applied to the washi with a brush) may be used to prevent blotches, but this is not done for Ozu washi.

Japanese paper in Ozu
Source: Kateigaho


Despite its thinness, ink does not bleed through easily, and Ozu washi has excellent durability and preservation properties. These characteristics do not change even after several years, and in fact, the paper gradually changes over time to a more elegant washi that glides easily with a brush and holds ink well, which is also a major attraction. Washi is also used for a variety of purposes, such as shoji paper, calligraphy paper, and colorful washi used for chigiri-e (tear-off pictures). Japanese has various traditional papers, such as Ise-katagami or Awa paper, and all of which has supported the development of other types of traditional Japanese crafts like Kyo-folding fans or dyeing industry of Kaga Yuzen or Nagoya Yuzen, or Kimono.  Recently, some wallpapers have been created in collaboration with foreign wallpaper designers, blending modern design with the soft texture of washi.


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