Edo patterned paper

Edo patterned paper Edo karakami

A fusion between the skills of Kyoto and the culture of Edo
Stylish paper created by exceptional artisans


What is Edo patterned paper ?

Edo Karakami are decorative paper products produced in the Bunkyo and Taito Wards of Tokyo, in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, and in Tokigawa Town, Hiki County, Saitama Prefecture. Designated as a traditional craft by the Japanese government in May 1999, Edo Karakami are mainly used for fusuma (sliding doors) and byobu (folding screens).Edo Karakami are characterized by their versatile production techniques including a basic form of woodblock printing by karakami artisans, stencil printing by sarasa artisans, and sprinkled gold and silver dust by sunago artisans. All the artisans use their own specialist techniques to create an extensive range of Edo Karakami patterns and designs.Early design motifs for washi (traditional Japanese paper) naturally include the tastes and fashions of the samurai and merchant classes of Edo such as calico and lattice patterns, seasonal flowers, and familiar articles of daily life. Such motifs still retain their popularity, and now coupled with more modern designs, Edo Karakami is found in a wonderful array of colors and patterns, also appearing as wall paper or across ceilings to create highlights. Always ready to lend a touch of color to daily life, today Edo Karakami is increasingly spreading into the world of modern interior decor.


Edo Karakami were originated by craftsmen working in Kyoto, who moved to Edo to meet the increased demand for karakami. It is thought karakami decorating styles stem from two different roots; one is the gold and silver leaf and dust decoration found on the Buddhist scriptures of the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1192) periods; the other is decoration mainly consisting of woodblock prints on paper used to write draft 31-syllable Japanese poems in the Heian period. With the flourishing of the new Edo period, demand for karakami increased in Edo; townspeople were using karakami for fusuma in their houses, and the Kyo (Kyoto-style) Karakami techniques brought in by the Kyoto craftsmen gradually took on the tastes and chic expressions of people in Edo, and so new and unique techniques were developed. It was around the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate that the decorative paper came to be known as Edo Karakami.The industry suffered two cataclysmic events resulting in the destruction of many woodblocks, namely the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Great Tokyo Air Raids of 1945; in addition, due to its high cost and the difficulty of mass-production, this craft industry was at the mercy of the economy and suffered badly during times of recession. However, even in the hardest of times the spirit of the craftsmen was still passed on through the generations, and still today with their remarkable skills, craftsmen are bringing the chic of Edo into people’s daily lives.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Monochrome Stencil PrintingThe techniques of sarasa stencil printing artisans are divided into two major methods: monochrome and multicolor stencil printing. A shibu-katagami (stencil stiffened with persimmon juice) is placed on washi and pigments and/or dye are forced through the stencil using a horse hair or round brush to clearly bring out the pattern.
  2. 2. Multicolor Stencil PrintingUsing the same basic technique as above, a second stencil and color is applied to the washi and as many as five, six or seven different shibu-katagami stencils and rubbing colors may be applied in sequence.
  3. 3. Okiage (Relief Effect)A technique used to print family crests or the like. Plenty of pigment is heaped with a wooden spatula to bring the pattern into high relief.
  4. 4. Hakuoshi (Gold/Silver Leaf Application)This is the same process as for karakami artisans; however, for sarasa artisans, thin paper stencil patterns are used, instead of the heavier woodblocks.
  5. 1. Sunago-Maki (Gold/Silver Dust Sprinkling)There are five techniques used by the sunago artisans working with decorative powders: sunago-maki, haku-chirashi, kin-gin deibiki, kakie, and migakidashi. Gold/silver dust are put in a bamboo tube with a fine copper wire mesh sprinkler and tapped or shaken over the paper surface.
  6. 2. Haku-Chirashi (Flake Sprinkling)Different sizes of gold/silver flakes are sprinkled by using a bamboo tube with threads stretched over the end. Different types of flakes are used: kiri-haku (square cut), nogi (long cut strips), and yaburi-haku (hand-torn).
  7. 3. Kin-Gin Deibiki (Gold/Silver Paint Application)Gold/silver paint is prepared by powdering sunago dust and adding a liquid glue; only one end of the brush is dipped into the mix – a unique feature of this technique – and then drawn across the paper.
  8. 4. Kakie (Picture Painting/Drawing)Traditional Japanese-style painting or landscapes are directly painted or drawn by brush.
  9. 5. Migakidashi (Pattern Rubbing)Sunago is sprinkled or deibiki applied onto washi, which is placed face up on top of a carved woodblock. The surface is then rubbed with a boar’s tusk to physically raise up the woodblock pattern and give an embossed effect.

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