Handmade Japanese paper
Published on December 11, 2015
Kurotani Washi has a history dating back 800 years and is said to have its origins as a way for the defeated soldiers of the Heike Clan hiding from their pursuers in the mountains to make a living. Since then, the village of Kurotani has been recognized as the home of traditional hand-made paper, an art that touched the majority of the villagers.
While a series of large fires has left little historic material, paper dating back to 1593 is said to be the oldest surviving paper remaining in Kurotani village.
While they primarily manufactured paper for everyday uses (shoji doors and lanterns etc.) various incentives led to further development of the craft and in the Edo period a large volume of paper was made for use in connection with Kimono in Kyoto, due to the village’s close proximity to the old capital. In line with developments in silkworm farming following the Meiji period, paper was also manufactured for use in cocoon bags. Over the years, uses for Kurotani Washi have changed from practical uses to more commercial applications and more recently the area has become the home of traditional, hand-made Japanese paper across Japan, developing a range of paper and other products, such as postcards, writing paper, art paper and craft paper for everyday use.
While the paper industry across Japan has changed dramatically over the years from Japanese paper to western paper, hand-made processes to automated processes, Kurotani Washi has remained true to its hand-made heritage, preserving a craft from the Japan of old. Despite changes in applications through the years, the traditional paper making process has remained the same. Kurotani Washi has forged a name for itself around the world as the home of this very valuable, pure hand-made Japanese paper and this art continues to be handed down to future craftsmen.