【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Inshu Washi (Tottori Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Inshu Washi (Tottori Prefecture)~


Inshu Washi



【Production area of Inshu Washi】

Eastern Tottori Prefecture

(The former name of the country was ‘Inaba no Kuni’ and is sometimes called Inshu.)



【What is Inshu Washi?】

Handmade Japanese paper made in eastern Tottori prefecture.

Paper used for calligraphy and painting is famous, and the production volume accounts for about 50% of the national share, making it the number one in Japan.


In the country of Inaba, the local people were able to gather abundant raw materials for Japanese paper, such as kozo, mitsumata, and gampi.

In addition, it can be said that the fact that the area was blessed with clear streams necessary for making high-quality paper is one of the factors behind its development as a production area for Japanese paper.


In May 1975, Inshu Washi was designated as the first traditional craft for Japanese paper.



【Features of Inshu Washi】

A big feature is the comfort of writing.

It is said that “While you are writing on one sheet with other washi paper, you can write on two sheets” and “Because it is smooth and easy to write, there is little consumption of ink”.

The word that was born from that is “Inshu brush is not cut”.

By the way, this word has two meanings: “The brush does not get damaged no matter how much you write” and “The ink does not fade easily, so you can write for a long time”.


For this reason, it is highly valued by many calligraphers.

In addition, since Inshu Washi is made using natural fibers, it is strong and resistant to oxidation.

This high degree of practicality can be said to be a characteristic of Inshu Washi.


There are two ways to make paper: nagashi-suki and tame-suki. Inshu washi is made using the former method.

The paper is made by agitating the collected fibers over and over again.

The traditional sound of that time, “chatpon chatpon”, has been selected as one of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan to Preserve” by the Ministry of the Environment.


Today, traditional techniques are used to create interior decorations such as small paper lanterns and lighting, as well as accessories such as earrings.

Craftsmen not only value ancient traditions, but also actively work on the development of products that match the times.



【History of Inshu Washi】

There are various theories about the origin of Inshu Washi, but the oldest one is said to be kept at Shosoin in Nara Prefecture.

In the “Seishu” of the Shosoin documents, there is a description of Inaba Province, and the seal of Inaba is stamped.

This is from the early 700s, so it has a history of nearly 1300 years.

Also, in the Engishiki, a legal code compiled in 927, it is recorded that the country of Inaba presented paper to the Imperial Court.


In the Edo period, Korenori Kamei, the first lord of the Inaba Shikano Domain, issued an order that 11 species of trees, including paper mulberry and gampi, should not be cut within the territory.

This is because it is an important raw material for Inshu Washi, and the production of paper for the Tottori clan and general-use paper was flourishing.

Thanks to advances in paper bleaching technology and the introduction of efficient production methods, production increased from the Meiji period to the end of the Taisho period.


With the spread of Western paper in the Showa period, the demand for Japanese paper continued to decline.

However, Inshu Washi actively developed new products without being bound by tradition.

It boasts the top market share in Japan for paper used for calligraphy, and continues to fascinate many people today.



【Production process of Inshu Washi】

①Raw materials


The main raw materials for Inshu Washi are paper mulberry, mitsumata, and gampi.

After choosing the raw material to use, it is soaked in water to soften the fibers.

After washing off unnecessary things such as dust and dirt, remove the black bark on the surface.




The skin still contains substances that are unnecessary for making washi, so by boiling, only the cellulose necessary for washi is extracted.


The procedure is as follows.

・ Re-immerse in water to soften

・Mix the water in the pot with caustic soda to make it alkaline, and boil it with straw or hemp.


The cooking time varies depending on the ingredients, but for paper mulberry, it takes 2 to 3 hours.


③Washing and bleaching


The boiled ingredients are washed with water to remove unnecessary substances and chemicals, leaving only cellulose.

After that, the clear stream washes away the dirt and dust.

Finally, after meticulously removing unnecessary items by hand, the process is complete.




Beating is the process of loosening the bundled fibers by hitting them with a stick.

By thoroughly beating the paper, the fibers become entangled with each other during paper making, making it possible to create a strong washi paper.

In addition to manual work, a crushing machine may also be used.


⑤Paper making


For papermaking, craftsmen use tools called “sukifune” and “suketa”.


The pounded fibers are dissolved in water to make a “stock”, and then the mixed material is removed.

After that, add the viscous clear liquid extracted from the root of tororo-aoi.


After putting water and paper stock into the sukibune, it is pumped up with a suketa.

In order to make the thickness of the paper equal, the fibers are entwined while shaking it up and down and left and right.

“Nagashisuki” is a method of repeating this process over and over until the desired thickness is achieved.




Since the paper that has been made is damp, this process removes the moisture.

Hundreds of sheets of paper are carefully stacked so that they do not lose their shape, and then gently squeezed.

When enough moisture has been removed, it’s done.




After carefully peeling off the dehydrated paper one by one, it is placed on a drying board and dried (dried in the sun or in a drying room).

At this time, use a brush to prevent wrinkles and gaps.




Inspect the dried paper for defects such as holes.

Once only good quality paper is collected, it is cut according to the type of paper to be produced.


There are two cutting methods.

・Traditional “hand-cutting” using a cutting knife, a cutting board, and a ruler

・Cut by machine





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