【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Awa Washi (Tokushima Prefecture)~
2023.01.27 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Awa Washi】
Yoshinogawa City, Naka Town, Naka County, and Ikeda Town, Miyoshi City in Tokushima Prefecture
【What is Awa Washi?】
Japanese paper produced in Yoshinogawa City, Naka Town, Naka County, and Ikeda Town, Miyoshi City in Tokushima Prefecture.
Hand-made Japanese paper is made one by one by a craftsman using the traditional techniques of “nagashisuki” and “tamesuki”.
There are many other types, such as:
・”Processed paper” with water resistance, etc.
・”Aizome Japanese paper” that creates patterns only with shades of indigo
・”Dyed paper” dyed in various colors
・”Sukikomi” which gives a different texture by mixing wood pulp etc.
・”Watermarked”, such as a logo or mark.
While preserving tradition, they are also actively working on the development of new washi, and various products such as postcards, business cards, and coasters are being made.
In December 1976, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Awa Washi】
It has three major characteristics: “The texture that can be expressed only by hand,” “The natural texture of natural materials,” and “Water-resistant and tear-resistant paper quality.”
The raw materials are scouring fibers extracted from kozo, gampi, and mitsumata, as well as bamboo and mulberry.
【History of Awa Washi】
There are various theories about the origin of Awa Washi.
In the Engishiki, a legal code compiled in the Heian period, there is a record that Japanese paper made from paper mulberry and gampi, which are the main raw materials of Japanese paper, was paid as a tribute.
There is also a record that Awaibe, a group that was in charge of rituals at the Imperial Court, cultivated hemp and paper mulberry and made Japanese paper.
Judging from these records, it is believed that washi paper was manufactured in the Nara period at the latest.
Around 1585, the first lord of the Tokushima domain, Iemasa Hachisuka, protected the paper mulberry.
In addition, Shichin, the second lord of the domain, encouraged farmers to make paper as a side business, and focused on the development of the paper industry as part of the clan’s policy.
After that, a monopoly system was introduced, and the name of Awa Washi became widely known.
In the Taisho era, when machine-made paper began to appear in large quantities, the production volume of Awa Washi continued to decline.
The number of manufacturing units, which was 222 units in 1909, decreased to 40 units in 1928, and currently only one company specializes in this.
【Production process of Awa Washi】
①Boiling of raw materials
Paper mulberry, the raw material, is harvested around November and December every year.
Paper mulberry consists of three layers, from the outside, “black bark”, “blue bark” and “white bark”.
After peeling off the black bark, soak it in water for several hours to overnight, and remove the softened blue bark with a knife.
After that, dry the black bark and white bark and store them in a cool and dark place.
Soak the stored paper mulberry in running water to remove the black skin and dust attached to the fiber.
Finally, put the paper mulberry in the alkaline solution, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 2 hours.
This process is complete if the craftsman can tear it by pulling it with his or her fingers.
After simmering, leave it for a whole day to steam.
After that, it is placed in running water to remove harshness and remove non-fiber substances.
Next, put the basket in the water and carefully remove the dust from the fibers.
Beating is the process of placing a bundle of fibers on a board and then hitting it with a hammer to separate the fibers one by one.
In the past, this was done by hand, but now it is done using special machines.
There are two techniques of paper-making, nagashi-suki and tamesuki, and nagashi-suki is performed in the following steps.
・Kakenagashi (or first water)
It is a work to spread the fibers over the entire surface of “Suketa”.
Do this as quickly as possible to prevent dust from sticking to the surface.
It is a process of creating layers by intertwining fibers.
The fibers are entwined while moving the “suketa” by immersing it deeper than the beginning.
Repeat until desired thickness is achieved.
The craftsman has to move the suketa in a well-balanced manner while reducing the weight of the water.
Finally, the task of throwing away the water remaining on the surface is “discarding water”.
When the paper is finished, remove the “su” from the “keta”.
While being careful not to let air get in between the sheets of paper, stack them on top of the paper floor board.
Since many sheets of paper will be stacked, align them with a ruler as a guide so that there is no misalignment.
The “paper floor” made by stacking wet papers is left overnight to allow the moisture to flow naturally.
It is then dehydrated using a press to remove any remaining moisture.
Start with a weak force so as not to damage the paper layer, and gradually increase it for about 6 hours.
By removing as much moisture as possible, the paper becomes stretchy and stiff.
The moisture content is about 70%.
After the pressing is complete, each sheet of paper is attached to a drying board and dried in the sun or using a dryer.
When drying thick paper, using a dryer makes it easier to raise the paper.
Also, the craftsman must be careful because it will dry too much.
After drying, apply “Dosa”, “Kakishibu” or “Konnyaku” depending on the purpose of the paper.
Each has the following effects.
Insect repellent, antiseptic, deodorant, etc.
In addition, if there is dyeing work or necessary processing, craftsmen will do it.