Washi, the Japanese craft paper

wsahi, Japanese craft paper

El Washi also called Japanese paper, Japan paper or Wagami, it is a typical craft paper from Japan. It is the highest quality paper that exists and in Japan it is used in a multitude of objects. It is found in all kinds of products, umbrellas, jewelry, lithographs, wedding dresses, masks against the coronavirus, etc. It is a ubiquitous type of paper in Japan.

Today you can find handcrafted washi and machine made washi. But The process of making artisanal washi has been an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Unesco since 2014 in recognition of papercraft in three locations: Hamada (Shimane Prefecture), Mino (Gifu Prefecture), and Ogawa / Higashi-chichibu (Saitama Prefecture). This is a distinction to traditional manufacturing techniques.

It is a very fine, resistant and shiny paper that does not yellow over time. With a weight of 5 to 80 g / m2

You will like our article on recycled but above all that of how to make craft paper.

Types of Washi

washi paper texture
Here we can see the texture of the washi

There are 3 main types

kozo (Broussonetia papyrifera). Mulbarry or paper mulberry is used. The fibers are very long. It is currently the most popular variety. it is collected every year in December when the tree has lost its leaves.

mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha). Fibers shorter than Kozo. The latex of this artbusto repels insects and gives the paper this quality. High quality paper is achieved. The inner bark of the branches that are collected in spring every three years is used.

Gampi or ganpi (Diplomorpha sikokiana). Glossy and somewhat translucent paper. It cannot be grown and is therefore more expensive than the other two. It is collected between spring and summer every 3 years

Mashi, Hemp (Cannabis sativa) It was the first to be made in China and the predominant one until the kozo was imposed

How to do it

how to make washi
washi sheets to be pressed


It must be made entirely by hand and with only three ingredients, according to statements by Takeshi Kano, one of the eight skilled craftsmen to make Honminoshi, the highest quality washi in the city of Mino.

  • Paper mulberry or Turkish mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) It is the most common type as we have seen above
  • water
  • neri (It is a vegetable mucilage that ensures the uniform dispersion of the paper fibers. A mucilage is a vegetable substance, coagulable with alcohol. It is found in algae, flax seeds, chia, mallow roots, quince, lichens, etc. )

As we have said, this high quality washi must be done completely by hand. It begins with the purification of the fibers of the bark of the mulberry from the paper and the formation of the pulp. A frame is then dipped into the pulp and gently rocked until the fibers criss-cross into a sheet of paper. From there it goes on to the drying phase and with this the classic washi is prepared.

Step by step

  • The wood to be used is collected. In the case of videos, it's Kozo.
  • The crust will be used, to separate it they put it in steam to soften it.
  • Then they leave it to soak,
  • They boil it for 3 hours to remove the lignin
  • remove impurities manually
  • and they go on to hit it with wooden clubs to break the fiber.
  • Then they are poured into a bucket and shake very well so that the fiber remains in suspension in the water.
  • Filtering with a fan sieve to leave a layer of vegetable fiber that will be the leaf.
  • This sheet is pulled out, stacked and pressed.
  • Let it dry in the sun and it is ready.

I leave some videos where you can see how it is manufactured, and which are summarized in the previous list although it seems that there is none where all the complete steps are seen, but between the 3 we can take them

Of course, visually they are very attractive. Everything made in Japan, its decoration, its tools, I find it tremendously beautiful.

Washi Making Videos

The sieve they use looks like bamboo, and it seems to leave the shape of its lattice on the sheet of paper.

washi no sato

Another video of Washi making.


uses of washi

Washi has multiple uses. In Japan it is present in many objects that we have already discussed. Luxury paper books, works of art, restoration of old books, lithographs, different items such as lamps, umbrellas, or walls, paper partitions of the houses of Japan. It is also clear about the use that is given in papyruslexia.

Many people know it for the famous washi tape. A kind of tape with a sticky side that is used for decoration, although most washi tape is not made with washi paper.

It is an expensive paper, as we see but very versatile and ideal if we want quality objects.

Unfortunately, I have not had it in my hands yet. But I would love to get some good quality washi to do different proofing on top and use it as a framework for different DIY pots.

Where to buy Washi outside of Japan?

Leave comments if you know where we can buy quality Japanese handmade washi


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