Ozu traditional Japanese paper Ozu washi
Thin and refined high-quality washi
Excellent pieces made through traditional papermaking handwork
What is Ozu traditional Japanese paper ?
Ozu Washi is a handmade paper made in Uchiko Town, Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture. The history of papermaking of Ozu Washi dates back to the Heian period, and the current style of Ozu Washi emerged in the mid-Edo period, and despite a declining workforce, it is still known as a successful high-quality Washi today.
Ozu Washi features a variety of raw materials; paper mulberry, paperbush, Diplomorpha sikokiana, hemp, bamboo, straw, and sunset hibiscus. It has many uses such as for shoji, kites and colored papers, and in particular, the popular Ozu Washi used for calligraphy. The thinness and evenness of Ozu Washi has contributed to its reputation as an exclusive and user-friendly paper ideal for calligraphy. After being allowed to mature for 3 to 4 years, calligraphy Ozu Washi naturally develops an antique patina and a smoother surface, which allows for smoother brush strokes and unique artistic expressions.
The origin of Ozu Washi are lost in the mists of time, but the Engi-Shiki Code giving detailed regulations of the state completed in the Heian period mentions Ozu washi and it is traditionally assumed that production began at some earlier point. A papermaking history book entitled Kamisuki-choho-ki, states that a well-known ancient poet, Hitomaro KIKINOMOTO(NO), began papermaking in Iwami Province, and the technique was later introduced to Ozu; the current style of Ozu Washi being developed by the Genroku era of the Edo period. Zenjomon Shusho introduced new techniques resulting in papermaking becoming one of the key industries of the Ozu domains, and it was even regarded as the best Washi in Japan. In 1910, a new paper mill was built employing about 430 people, but by the end of World War 2 only 74 workers remained and numbers continued to drop.
In addition to the war, production has been largely affected by mechanization. However, despite such hard times craftsmen have upheld the handwork techniques and the Ozu Washi tradition has been preserved into modern times.
General Production Process
- 1. Soaking and boiling
The basic raw materials such as paper mulberry, paperbush and Diplomorpha sikokiana are soaked in water to soften and then boiled with soda ash or the like in a vat to remove impurities from the bark and to make the fiber tissues easier to disentangle.
- 2. Removal of lye, bleaching
The fibers are thoroughly washed to remove impurities and any dust dissolved in the boiled water. After rinsing, fibers are left to dry in the sun to dry and remove lye residues, after which the fibers are mixed with a water diluted bleaching solution; this ensures the finished paper will not turn brown over time, which is a common characteristic of other washi.
- 3. Washing, beating
The fibers are removed and washed thoroughly to remove any bleach and chemicals, which if left would damage the paper. Dust and any detritus is removed and the fibers machine beaten in readiness for papermaking.
- 4. Papermaking
Beaten fibers are mixed with a gelatinous substance extracted from the roots of sunset hibiscus in a sukibune watertank; when well mixed, a scoop of the liquid paper is poured into a sudare draining board and then set in a keta wooden frame. There have been two major hand papermaking methods; the current mainstream method also used by Ozu Washi nagashisuki (papermaking in flowing water), and tamesuki (papermaking using stored water).
With nagashisuki, the liquid paper after scooping onto a draining board is gently shaken back and forth to give a uniform paper thickness. The artisan uses a fullbody motion including their arms, legs, and waist. When the right thickness is achieved, the sheet is removed and the finished sheets carefully stacked.
- 5. Pressing
The stacks are left overnight, and then very slowly pressed to remove liquid; great care is taken not to misshapen or damage them. Shoji paper takes 3 hours of pressing and calligraphy papers 24 hours.
- 6. Drying
Pressing is followed by a drying process. Drying techniques vary according to the washi production area, some lay papers on a board to sun-dry or place them in a drying room, Ozu Wazhi craftsmen use a drying machine. Each paper is laid individually on a stainless steel plate and quickly smoothed out with a wide brush to ensure no wrinkling. By the time the artisan has reached the end of the plate, the first paper sheet is already dry, ready to be removed and stacked and a new sheet stuck in its place.
- 7. Selecting, Cutting
Each sheet is checked for quality, absolute evenness, the correct thickness and obviously it must be perfect and without damage. Dust is brushed off and papers cut to standard sizes to finish. This is the final Ozu Washi process; for comparison, there are some kinds of washi treated to additional processes such as the spreading of a dosa solution made from water, glue and alum across the surface.
Where to Buy & More Information
Ozu Washi hall
ClosedYear end and new year holidays
See other Traditional Japanese paper
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