Materials For Washi

The outer bark of KOZO, MITSUMATA and GAMPI are used in the production of washi. Each plant has special characteristics, and all of them have long, strong shined, thin yet strong fiber, which is one of the attributes of washi. Other than these plants, hemp, mulberry, bamboo and straw are used to make washi. Nowadays, vegetables, wild plants and clays are sometimes contained into washi for decorative and artistic papers. In old days, these materials were harvested as wild plants in mountains or cultivated at the side of farm or slope of mountains. However, as the demand for washi has decreased, the production for materials of washi was also reduced. One of the reasons was that production of washi was in red due to the cost conflict between sales price and material fee of washi. Moreover, the materials which prices are considerably low were started to import from Philippine or Thailand, and many papermakers in Japan started to use them. KOZO and MITSUMATA are cooked and striped their bark from branch or bleached to be white bark and sold to papermakers from farms. The stripped barks are tied to bundles of 15kg.

KOZO which are just cultivated  and stripping black bark from cooked branches.


KOZO is in mulberry family, and the shrub can grow up to 3m. It is easy to cultivate and can be harvested every year. Since its fiber is thick, long and strong, it is suitable to make shoji paper, flame paper, art paper and calligraphy paper. At Awa washi, the black bark, which is cultivated at the border of Tokushima and Kochi prefectures, is used. In Tokushima, two kinds of KOZO are cultivated. The one has rough fiber and suit to make thick paper, and another has thin fiber that is appropriate to make thinner paper. Also, the white bark from Kochi prefecture is used; however, most of KOZO for machine-made paper are from Thailand. The reason why Japanese papermakers started to use Thai KOZO is that the price of KOZO became extensively high due to the production of KOZO was suddenly declined. Nowadays, since the Thai KOZO have stability of quality, amount and price, the papermakers who mainly produce machine-made papers are dependent on Thai KOZO.


The name MITSUMATA is a common name in today; however, it used to be a dialectal word in Suruga and Izu area. It was called as many dialectal names in different areas in Japan, such as "JUZUBUSA" at Mikawa area, "MITSUEDA" at Ise area, "MITSUMATAYANAGI" or "MUSUBIKI" in Shikoku and Chugoku area, "YANAGI" and "RINCHO" in Kochi area. MITSUMATA is a peculiar Japanese plant which is frequently used as material for making paper, and it has been started to use for papermaking since 400-500 years ago. Also, the cultivation for MITSUMATA was started 200 years ago at near the waterfall of Shiraito in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka prefecture. MITSUMATA has been used as a paper material popularly since the printing department of Japanese government has started to use it since the beginning of Meiji period.

In order to make GAMPI paper with best quality, carefully remove the buds and scars from the bark. This bark was used to make a printmaking paper for an artist.

GAMPI is a member of the Thymelaceae or Daphne family, and the shrub can be grown up to 2m. The fiber is thin, short and lustrous, but since it grows slow and is difficult to cultivate, only the bark is stripped from row wild GAMPI. It is harvested in spring and summer in northern mountain (Sanuki Mountains). In old days, GAMPI was largely used as materials for mimeograph paper, but after copy machine was popularized, the needs for the paper were suddenly dropped. Today, it is used as Hakuuchi paper and paper for Fusuma.


Beating the root and soaking it into water


The root of TOROROAOI is used as "NERI". "NERI" is necessary to spread the fibers into the water evenly to make good quality paper. Although well processed material is used, the fiber can not be spread evenly if only water is used. The materials with long fiber, such as KOZO, MITSUMATA and GAMPI are difficult to agitate into water equally without "NERI". Also, since the gravity of plantsÕ fibers is approximately 1.5 times heavier than water, the fibers sink into water easily. Therefore, "NERI" is used to help spreading fibers evenly in the water. Sometimes it is called "NERI" and "NORI" and considered it is used to adhere fibers each other, but it is helping to spread the fibers into water equally and not adhesive. As the reason of fiber can be spread into water well, the root of TOROROAOI, which is normally used as "NERI", contains an element which is very easy to dissolve in water. When the root of TOROROAOI is smashed and soaked in water, very glutinous liquid comes out. Pour this liquid into a cloth bag to filter, and add the liquid into SUKIBUNE (bat) with material and agitate. The "NERI" is same kind as cellulose, and it covers each fibers with the adherence so that the fibers does not get entangled each other but spread in the water evenly. Also, it gives proper glutinous to the water, and the fibers can be equally floated long time without sinking to the bottom of SUKIBUNE. However, the glutinous of "NERI" can not be last long time. Especially, in summer time, the adherence is easy to disappear and the "NERI" must be added every time when materials are added. The plants, which are used as "NERI", are not only TOROROAOI but also root of AOGIRI, bark of NORIUTSUGI and root of GINBAISO.