What is washi?
Washi – literally ‘Japanese paper’ – is made from three different plants: kōzo (mulberry), mitsumata and ganpi, the long fibres of which create incredibly durable papers. With a 1500-year old history, the largest washi-making area in Japan is a cluster of five villages in Echizen in Fukui Prefecture. The high quality paper was used for many things including official documents and even the first Japanese banknotes.
Sugihara Shoten, a washi wholesalers, was established in 1871 by Sugihara Hanjirō. It supplies high-quality paper from all around Echizen including the work of the regional industry’s ‘Living National Treasure’ Iwano Ichibei IX. Some of Ichibei IX’s work was on display in The Shop at Japan House London to coincide with the exhibition SUBTLE: Delicate or Infinitesimal. Read on to find out more about the history of washi in Japan and the many ways it is used.