The person primarily responsible for running this kōbō workshop in Mino, Gifu Prefecture, is Toyomi Suzuki, who, after her marriage, learned the art of papermaking from her father-in-law, Takeichi. She starts work early every morning, making around 100 sheets per day. “I’m constantly thinking that the next sheet I make will be even better than the last,” she says.
Toyomi is supported in this painstaking work by her husband, Takehisa, who apprenticed with her upon retirement from his earlier career; his mother, Hagi, who has been involved in papermaking for many years; and Hagi’s daughter, Mariko Furuta.
The way in which the suketa bamboo-scrim mold is swung in all directions is a particular feature of the process for producing Honmino-shi. The kōzo mulberry tree fibers thus become strongly intertwined, creating a magnificent irregular texture visible when a sheet is held up to the light.
As Takehisa explains, “If you liken it to snow, it is as if fluffy fresh snow had fallen onto ground covered with hard-packed snow. The surface is not a uniform white. It has a lovely unevenness to it.” Pliant Honmino-shi gets its beauty from this fine, delicate and complex texture.
Washi from Mino Takegami Kobo can be purchased at the Mino-Washi Museum. Warabi 1851-3, Mino, Gifu 501-3788; 0575-34-8111; city.mino.gifu.jp/minogami; firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the second in a four-part series about handmade Japanese washi paper.