Washi was registered as Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO

On November 27th, Washi (Japanese paper) was registered as Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

“Washoku” (Japanese Cuisine) was registered as it last year.
So, Intangible cultural heritages of Japan have been registered for the second consecutive year.

Shouji with washi

Shouji with washi

Washi is the paper which is made in Japan by a traditional method.
“Wa” means Japan, and “shi” means paper.

There are various types of Washi in Japan, and this registered target is the paper made from Kouzo tree.

Kouzo is a low tree distributed in Japan, Korea and China and has been used as main material for paper in these areas since ancient times.

In addition to Kouzo, the trees such as Mitsumata and Gampi are used.

Drying barks of Kouzo

Drying barks of Kouzo

To make paper, the craftworkers strip the bark off Kouzo tree.

Then, they remove the surface thin brown skin by washing in cold river and scraping with a knife.

After that, the bark is boiled in a water and ash, and is washed again in the river after boiling.
The bark becomes white after the above works.

And the craftworkers remove all dusts on the bark by hand work.
Then, they beat the barks with a hammer and spread the fibers.

The material for paper is completed.


Making paper (Photo Najio Washi (Japanese Paper) by Hyougushi)

A craftworker spreads the bark in a thin wooden crate with the size of a paper.
He swings the crate in cold water and forms the bark evenly.

The formed bark is dried in the sunshine, then Washi reaches completion.

All processes are by hand work.
That has low productivity, but has been carried on the tradition for about 1300 years.

Unlike the common papers used in the world, no chemical is used in the making of Washi.
Therefore, Washi is difficult to deteriorate with age.
And because the fiber of the paper is long, Washi doesn’t tear easily.

Because the surface of Washi is rougher than common paper, we can’t write with pencil or pen smoothly.
Rather, Washi is better suited for writing with a brush and black ink.

Washi is used for the doors and windows of Japanese house such as Fusuma and Shoji.
And Washi of mitsumata is used for Japanese paper money.

As just described, Washi is pervasive in Japanese traditional everyday life.

In addition, in Europe, this Washi is used for repair of old book and art object.

The target production districts of this registration are the following towns.
1) Hamada city (Shimane Prefecture)
2) Mino city (Gifu Prefecture)
3) Ogawa town and Higashi-Chichibu village (Saitama Prefecture)

Among these, Mino city is close to my town Nagoya.
It is on the way to old town Takayama and a World Heritage site Shirakawa-go village from Nagoya.

When you travel around these towns, please make a brief visit to Mino city.
(The official website is http://www.mino-city.jp/en/index.html )

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