Sekishu traditional Japanese paper Photo:Shimane Perfecture

Sekishu traditional Japanese paper Sekishu washi

Delicate Japanese paper that combines toughness and flexibility
Its beauty is released as its whiteness acquires a yellowish tint over time.


What is Sekishu traditional Japanese paper ?

Sekishu washi is produced in the western part (Iwami region) of Shimane Prefecture. It is a traditional craft with a long history of around 1300 years. The name Sekishu is found in writings from olden times, the Heian period, and a statement to the effect that in the Nara period, KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro “taught the populace to make Japanese paper” appears in some writings from the Edo period as well.
Sekishu washi is characterized by its exploitation of the nature of the paper mulberry tree, whose bast fibers are, on average, about 10 mm long and mesh together easily. The finished paper retains its strength even when folded or rubbed, and is even stronger than Western papers. The paper that is used is a delicate, but resilient, Japanese paper that exhibits the special qualities of the mitsumata plant (Edgeworthia chrysantha, oriental paper bush) with its bast fibers averaging about 4 mm in length.
Although it is slightly inferior in toughness, the paper is smooth and flexible. Its soft sheen makes it suitable for use in printing and for calligraphy. The fibers in Sekishu ganpi paper is a form of washi made from ganpi fibers, which are about 3 mm in length and of the greatest delicacy, but resistant to insect damage, as well as tolerating humidity well. The finished ganpi paper is glossy and translucent and is used in a large variety of products, including paper for calligraphy, certificates of merit, paper for dyeing, stationery, and so on.


According to Kamisukichohoki, published in 1798 (Kansei 10), KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro, the governor of Iwami from 704~715 (Keiun 1~Wado 8), “taught the populace to make Japanese paper.” From then on, for about 1300 years, Sekishu washi continued to be made in the Iwami district in the western part of Shimane Prefecture. Osaka merchants in the Edo period used Sekishu washi for their account books, and this was the type of washi used for the object that was most important for their products, keeping records of the customers. We are told that even if there was a fire, they would throw the ledger with the customer names into a well to save it from being burned; when it was taken out of the well, the paper was untorn and had not dissolved, so they could start doing business again.
In 1969 (Showa 44), the Sekishuu hanshi produced by the Sekishu Hanshi Gijutsushakai was designated as a national important intangible cultural asset. In 2009 (Heisei 21), in accordance with a Unesco treaty having to do with the protection of intangible cultural heritages, Sekishu hanshi was recorded as an intangible heritage of humanity. Even today, the traditional craft product “Sekishu washi,” including the important intangible cultural asset Sekishu hanshi, is being used as a special type of washi for the restoration of cultural properties, and this culture that has endured for 1300 years is being carried on by young artisans.

General Production Process

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Shimane Bussan Kankokan Photo:Shimane Perfecture

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