Lifestyle | Kateigaho International Japan Edition

Wonders of washi: Tesuki Washi Tanino makes ultrarefined paper with an amber sheen

Wonders of WashiTesuki Washi Tanino makes ultrarefined paper with an amber sheenThe third UNESCO-commended type of washi paper is Hosokawa-shi, made in Saitama Prefecture.

Fresh from the press: Hiroko Tanino raises a just-made sheet of Hosokawa-shi up from the paper mold. | MASASHI KUMA
Fresh from the press: Hiroko Tanino raises a just-made sheet of Hosokawa-shi up from the paper mold. | MASASHI KUMA

It takes its name from a high-grade paper called Hosokawa hosho, developed during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and employed for such things as record- and account-keeping as well as for covering fusuma sliding doors. The Hosokawa-shi that was once so necessary to the lives of common people is now used to make art prints and to preserve and restore cultural properties.

Hiroko Tanino was past her 30th birthday when she became fascinated with Japanese paper and began her training. In 1999, she opened Tesuki Washi Tanino and, in 2010, was certified as a Saitama Prefectural Traditional Craftsperson.

“As someone recognized by the prefecture for the manufacture of a traditional craft,” says Tanino, “I want to work on developing future artisans, passing down the traditions to generations to come.”

Cold-weather endeavors: Rinsing hibiscus. The paper is made between December and April because, Tanino explains, 'During the colder times of the year, the hibiscus has better viscosity, which means better paper.' | MASASHI KUMA
Cold-weather endeavors: Rinsing hibiscus. The paper is made between December and April because, Tanino explains, ‘During the colder times of the year, the hibiscus has better viscosity, which means better paper.’ | MASASHI KUMA

Two characteristics of Hosokawa-shi are its resilient strength and its light-brown sheen, achieved by retaining some of the midlayer bark of the kōzo (mulberry).

Also incorporated is fiber from the sunset hibiscus (Abelmoschus manihot), which gives the paper pulp its viscosity; only locally grown plants are used.

Iwakichi Kurosawa, a member of the Ogawa Hibiscus Production Union, says proudly, “Because these plants are susceptible to the heat and cold, they are time-consuming to grow. But since they’re an indispensable part of the process for Hosokawa-shi, it’s important to grow them here in Ogawa.” Currently, 18 farms produce this hibiscus; the yield was approximately 7,000 kilograms in autumn of 2014. This stable supply of hibiscus supports the future of Hosokawa-shi.

Sheafs and seams: An exhibition of costumes made from Hosokawa-shi in the Saitama Crafts Center gallery in Ogawa. The same building houses a workshop where visitors can try their hand at making washi paper. | MASASHI KUMA
Sheafs and seams: An exhibition of costumes made from Hosokawa-shi in the Saitama Crafts Center gallery in Ogawa. The same building houses a workshop where visitors can try their hand at making washi paper. | MASASHI KUMA

Direct sale of washi products is available at Tesuki Washi Tanino; monme.net; info@monme.ne. This is the final installment in a four-part series about handmade Japanese washi paper.

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