【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Tosa Washi (Kochi Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Tosa Washi (Kochi Prefecture)~


Tosa Washi(Japanese paper)



【Production area of Tosa Washi】

Around Tosa City and Ino Town, Kochi Prefecture



【What is Tosa Washi?】

Japanese paper produced in Tosa City and Ino Town, Kochi Prefecture.

Along with Fukui Prefecture’s Echizen Washi and Gifu Prefecture’s Mino Washi, it is famous as one of the three major Japanese papers.

It was designated as a traditional craft in 1976.


It is used for the following purposes.

*Old times → Lanterns, medicine cases, wallets, etc.

*Currently → Fusuma, food packaging, calendars, torn pictures, retouching of books and paintings, etc.


Especially for retouching books and paintings, it is used not only in Japan but also overseas, and has a very high reputation.



【Features of Tosa Washi】

The major characteristics of Tosa Washi are its “abundance of types” and its “thin but durable”.

About 300 types of washi are still produced today.

There are washi production areas all over Japan, but the number of places that produce a wide variety of types is decreasing.

In addition, Tosa Tengujo paper, which is called “Mayfly’s Feather” and is the thinnest paper in the world, is only 0.03mm thick.

Although it is extremely thin, it is also strong, and this is produced by the natural blessings of kozo, a raw material unique to Tosa Washi, and the Niyodo River, a first-class river.



【History of Tosa Washi】

There are several legends, but the most convincing one is that it was developed by Ki no Tsurayuki (one of the thirty-six great poets of the Heian period).

Ki no Tsurayuki came to Kochi in 930 as Governor of Tosa, and it is said that he contributed to the development of the paper industry.

From this theory, we can see that Tosa Washi is already a craft with a history of nearly 1,100 years.


There is a document (Engishiki) that states that washi  made in the Tosa area during the Heian period was delivered as a “gift to the emperor.”

In the Kamakura period, it was used as the official paper of the shogunate.

From this, you can see that the quality of Tosa Washi was highly valued from that time.

At that time, Japanese paper was also used for kaiawase, a game played by nobles.

Since then, it has continued to be used for various purposes, such as kimonos, dolls, and banknotes, as times change.


Tosa washi was protected by the Tosa clan, and even during the Edo period it was chosen as a gift item for the shogunate.

Even now, it is a local specialty product centered on Tosa City and Ino Town, and its tradition has been handed down from generation to generation.



【Production process of Tosa Washi】

*Plants used as raw materials

Bark of kozo, mitsumata, and ganpi



When using kozo as a raw material, the basic process is to wash the white and black bark separately and expose them to cold water for a certain period of time.

After that, the ingredients are boiled for 2 to 4 hours in hot water made alkaline by adding slaked lime.

By boiling in alkaline hot water, it is possible to extract only the fiber from the raw material.


※ The method of making the paper will vary depending on the purpose and quality of the paper to be made.


②Wash with water and expose to the sun

The ingredients boiled in alkaline hot water are washed away with clear water.

The work of “spreading thinly and washing away” is repeated many times over the course of a day, so it is a labor-intensive task.

After washing, it is dried in the sun for 3 to 4 days.

By drying in the sun, the colored ingredients gradually turn white when steamed.

In addition, it may be bleached using bleaching solution.


③Dust removal

The craftsmen carefully remove the remaining bark and dust by hand.

Thoroughly removing dust will make it possible to produce a stronger Japanese paper.



It is the work of rolling the fibers that have been dusted and hitting them with a stick.

Hitting makes it easier to break down the fibers during step ⑥.

The well-beaten fibers spread softly just by putting them in water.

In addition, recently, there has been an increase in the number of people using machines instead of manual labor to perform the beating work.



The beaten raw materials are put into a basket filled with water, submerged, and dispersed while being stirred.

“Koburi” is a very important work that is directly linked to the quality of the paper.


⑥Paper making

As a preliminary preparation for papermaking, the raw material fibers are loosened and glue is added to make paper.

Tosa Washi often uses a plant called “Tororo Aoi” as glue.

It is very important to adjust the amount of glue to be used.

This is because if the amount of glue is too little, water will escape during papermaking, and on the contrary, if the amount of glue is too much, the water cannot be removed.


There are two methods of making paper: nagashi-suki and tame-suki.



The paper is scooped with a “sukifune”, and the fibers are evenly distributed while shaking and papering.

It is difficult to adjust the thickness of the fibers so that they are uniform, and it requires the skill of a craftsman.



After scooping the fiber, it is a work to pull out the water.

This also requires craftsmanship to make the whole thickness the same.


In general, when making thin paper, “nagashi-suki” is used, and when making thick paper, “tame-suki” is used.



After making paper, put a weight on it and leave it overnight.

Then, the next day, it is common to use a press to slowly squeeze out the water and dehydrate it.



There are two main drying methods: sun drying and fire drying.


・Sun drying

A method in which dehydrated paper is carefully pasted one by one onto a drying board and dried in the sun.

Although it depends on the season, the weather, the temperature, and the strength of the sun, the strength and texture of the finished product is superior to that of fire drying.


・Fire drying

A method of drying paper pasted on a stainless steel plate with heat such as steam.

The advantage is that craftsmen can do it regardless of the weather or season.


⑨Cutting and packing

Cut to match the same size.

For shipment, the trimmed papers are grouped into transaction units, wrapped, and packed.





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