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Japanese culture was given another global pat-on-the-back after UNESCO designated Japanese traditional paper-making techniques an intangible cultural heritage last month. The craftsmanship for washi, as Japanese-style paper is called, is passed down from generation to generation within families and local communities that have specialized in the craft for centuries. This recognition will help to protect a marvelous cultural tradition that is in danger of becoming lost in an increasingly paperless age.

As more and more of daily life moves from paper to digital form, washi becomes all the more relevant and fascinating. Many young people in Japan have perhaps rarely, if ever, written a letter by hand, or received one, on traditional washi paper. This generation’s digitalization is a significant break from Japan’s cultural history, which abounds with beautiful poetry, important documents and official certificates, not to mention all those love letters in “The Tale of Genji,” all written on washi.

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