Sekishu Washi is a high quality Japanese paper


Sekishu Washi technics registered UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Sekishu Washi is Japanese paper made in the Iwami region in western Shimane Prefecture. Made with the high skills of craftsmen, Sekishu Washi has an elegant luster and softness, as well as extremely high durability. In the past, it was used as paper for shoji screens and calligraphy, supporting people’s daily lives. Recently, it has been used in a wide range of settings, including new interior products that take advantage of its characteristics and the restoration of cultural properties such as Katsura Rikyu and Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

The fibers of the paper are so firm that it is said to be the strongest Japanese paper in Japan. It is also resistant to insect damage and excels in moisture resistance, making it useful in a variety of situations. Finished products are glossy and translucent, and are used in a wide variety of products such as calligraphy paper, certificate paper, dyed paper, and letter paper. Currently, traditional Japanese washi crafts include Ecchu Washi, Awa Washi, Ozu Washi, and others.

japanese traditional Paper

There are three types of Sekishu Washi.

Sekishu Kozo Washi

Kozo paper is the most widely produced type of Sekishu Washi. The average length of the bark fiber of kozo, the raw material for washi, is about 10 mm. Compared to other raw materials, the fibers are very long and easily entangled. Therefore, kozo paper is so tough that it cannot be easily torn even if it is rubbed or folded.

Among the Sekishu washi, Sekishu-Hanshi(half paper) is made from locally produced high-quality kozo paper. In addition, Sekishu-Hanshi is made without removing the “ama-bark” between the skin and the kozo (paper mulberry) skin, which is not used in most other regions. This makes the paper extremely strong and gives it a unique luster and light green color.

Sekishu mitsumata paper

The average length of mitsumata fibers is about 4 mm. Although less tough than kozo, mitsumata is very delicate and resilient. The resulting washi has an elegant luster and a soft, smooth texture. It is suitable for printing paper and calligraphy paper.

Sekishu Gampi Paper

The average length of the ligament fibers of the raw material, gampi, is about 3 mm, and the fibers have a strong adhesive property. The resulting washi is translucent and glossy, and is resistant to insect damage and has excellent moisture-proofing properties.

Ozuwashi ECshop

History of Sekishu Washi

Handmade paper (paper made of lignin fiber) was established in 105, the first year of the Yuanxing era, by Cai Lun of China, who improved the technique. It was introduced to Japan in 610 by Yuzheng in Suiko 18 (610). Sekishu washi is made in the western part of Shimane Prefecture (Iwami region). According to a book published in 1798, handmade washi has been made and preserved in the Iwami (Iwashu) region for about 1,300 years.

By preserving the techniques and skills handed down from our predecessors, the “Sekishu hanshi” produced by the Sekishu Hanshi Engineers’ Association was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the national government in 1969. In 1989, the techniques and expertise of Sekishu Washi, as represented by Ishizhou Hanji, which is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property, was designated as a “Traditional Craft” by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. In 2009 (Heisei 21), Ishizhou Washi was included in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” based on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Japan.

Manufacturing Method

1. Steaming of raw materials

The raw materials used to make Sekishu washi, a strong type of Japanese paper, are locally grown kozo (paper mulberry) and mitsumata (mitsumata), as well as wild gampi (ganpi) that grows wild in the local area. The logs are cut at an angle with a sickle, and then trimmed to about 1 meter in length. After trimming, the logs are steamed in a pot so that the core and bark can be easily peeled off.

The logs and bark are removed in a tubular manner by clamping the logs and bark in each hand and clamping them between the legs. The peeled black bark is bound and allowed to air dry naturally before storage.

2. “Kurokawa Sori” (Sori with black skin)

The black bark is soaked in water for about half a day to soften it, then placed on a sledding board, and the outer skin is carefully shaved off one by one with a knife. To make the kozo tough, the part between the outer skin and the white skin, called “ama-bark,” is left on the kozo.

3. Boiling and ripening

The white bark is carefully shaken in clear water to wash out impurities. In a boiling pot filled with water, 12% of the soda ash is added to the water volume, which is then brought to a boil, and the material is added while being loosened. The material is boiled and steamed for about 2 hours, turning it upside down every 30 minutes to prevent unevenness. After boiling, the raw materials are carefully cleaned of dust and other debris with clean water. Kozo (paper mulberry) is removed from the water one by one while removing the lye.

4. Dakai (demolishing)

The raw materials are placed on a hard wooden board and carefully beaten with an oak stick to break up the fibers. In the case of Sekishu Washi, the fibers are crushed six times back and forth from side to side and six times up and down.

35-45 women

5. Kazushi

Water, paper material, and the mucilage of the mallow are put into a sukibune, and the mixture is dispersed with a mixing stick to make it even. The process of making Sekishu washi consists of three basic steps: kazushi, choshi, and sutemizu. Kashizushi is the process of quickly scooping up the paper material from the boat and forming the surface of the washi using the entire bamboo screen.

6. Choshi

In the Choshi process, the washi layer is formed by scooping up the paper material deeply and shaking it back and forth to make the fibers intertwine with each other.

7. Sute-mizu (getting rid of water)

The thickness of Washi is determined by the number of times of the tone, and when the desired thickness is reached, Sute-mizu is the process of shaking off and discarding excess materials such as water and paper materials on the bamboo screen at once. The process of binding fibers together is called “shozozo,” and since the paper is not adhesive, it can be peeled off one by one after drying.

8. Transferring paper to the floor

After the washi is made, it is drained well on the screen, piled up one sheet at a time on the paper floor stand, moved, and left overnight. Then, the paper is moved and left to stand overnight. The paper is gradually pressurized with a compressor, and the finished washi is squeezed.

9. Drying

The pressed and squeezed paper is peeled off one by one and pasted onto a ginkgo drying board using a brush. The dried boards are then dried in the sun to produce beautiful Sekishu washi with a firm and firm texture.

10. Sorting

After drying is complete, each sheet of washi is sorted, carefully separating out unevenness, thickness, and dust. The sorted good washi is then cut into pieces according to its intended use and finished as a product.



Key point

Despite its elasticity and toughness, it is surprisingly light and soft to the touch. Its yellowish hue becomes whiter and more beautiful as time goes by. With these characteristics, Sekishu Washi is a traditional Japanese craft that is still in demand by experts in various fields. Although we do not have many opportunities to see it in person, it is an important asset that supports Japanese tradition.


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