Handmade Paper from Echizen

Echizen Washi Village
A gift passed down from the gods: Parents make paper, and children too; grandchildren make paper as well. (Echizen papermaking song)  The home of Echizen washi in Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture is the Goka area, a cluster of five small villages––Oizu, Ōtaki, Iwamoto, Shinzaike, and Sadatomo––blessed with abundant spring water and surrounded by mountains. 
This area of Echizen was developed early: to the west lies the Takefu Basin, home of the old provincial government and to the south over the mountain one sees Ajimano, an old kofun grave mound site.  An old legend tells of the ancestral deity of paper. At the time when the future Emperor Keitai was in the Echizen area, a beautiful princess appeared in the upper reaches of the Okamoto river. “With no space for growing rice in this narrow valley, life must be hard. Yet you are blessed with clean, clear water, so you should make paper.” And she took off her outer robe, hung up a bamboo pole, and taught them the art of papermaking. 

When the villagers asked for her name, answering simply that she lived up the Okamoto river, she vanished. Since then, the villagers have worshiped the “Upper River” goddess, Kawakami Gozen, as the ancestral deity of paper. Based on the its long-distinguished history, in 1923 the Papermaking Section of the National Printing Bureau in the Ministry of Finance has honored the papermaking goddess and she has become the guardian of the paper production for all Japan.

The calligraphy on the stone monument in front of the gate is by Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958). The well-known Japanese painter donated the calligraphy ca. 1940 as he extensively used Echizen paper for his works. 
History of Echizen Washi
Even the lords, yes even the shogun, reach for the heavy hōsho paper of Goka (Echizen papermaking song) The hōsho paper mentioned above was used for official documents. Other typical Echizen papers include the soft textured torinoko paper and papers with patterns made in the formation process, like marbled uchikumo clouds and mizutama water drops.

Under the protection of the Shiba and Asakura families in the medieval period and the Matsudaira family during the Edo period, the Echizen papermakers had a close connection with the imperial court, the shogunate, and various daimyo.

Goka was integrally involved with the production of paper money, not only for the Fukui domain, but also, with their permission, for the neighboring Maruoka and Owari domains.

They used different materials and formation techniques for each domain.

Early on Goka papermakers perfected the art of making banknotes. The closely bound industry could produce large amounts of paper in a short time and to oversee strict quality control. So, when the new Meiji government issued the first banknotes of Imperial Japanese Paper Currency to be honored throughout the whole country, Goka took on job of producing the paper for them in a single order.

Connections with paper money continued after that. Seven of the people from the paper workshop that made the first Imperial Japanese banknotes, were appointed to the National Printing Bureau under the Ministry of Finance to develop a unique paper solely for banknotes. They perfected a special tamezuki paper for printing and thereby built the foundation for Japanese modern banknote paper. The Goka artisans then used this knowledge to develop their own tamezuki torinoko paper, which in turn stimulated modernization in the area.

During the Meiji period, the paper industry of Goka expanded its productivity incrementally through the use of power and improvements in paper manufacturing. They received certificates of excellence at national and international expositions and fairs.

At the same time, to compete with the large amount of inexpensive, quality western paper being imported, Goka over produced lower-grade paper. Just when the prices were at a low due to large-scale production, the first Heizaburo Iwano (1878-1960), known as the father restorer of Echizen washi, set about to develop the best quality art paper.

Heizaburo Iwano and Paper for Japanese Painting
During the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868-1925) artists making Japanese-style paintings (nihonga) relied mainly on Chinese papers and pigments. At Goka, they tried modifying papers made for ukiyo-e prints to produce paper for painters by mizing paper mulberry (kōzo) and ganpi. The first Heizaburo Iwano felt there was room for improvement.  Only in the mid Taishō period, however, did he focus on developing Nihongashi, special art paper for Japanese paintings. In the beginning his Nihongashi had a low market value, due to conventional priority given to silk over paper as a painting strata. What turned the situation around was that in 1926 the East Asian historian, Konan Naito (1866-1934) asked the first generation Heizaburo Iwano to reproduce hemp paper (mashi) made in the eighth century.

Seeing the mashi paper, scholars and Japanese painters told Heizaburo that if he improved the quality, mashi would definitely create a revolution in calligraphy paper. The painter Taikan Yokoyama (1868-1958) had the perceptive insight that Iwano’s new hemp paper would dramatically change the paper for Japanese painting and used it for a painting he presented to the Empress.

Since he served as an intermediary for Japanese paintings given to royalties, this led to orders for papers to make ceiling paintings (tenjōga) and sliding doors (fusuma). When the third Heizaburo heard of the mashi given special approval, he wrote in a letter dated 1928/4/7, “For several thousand years we have been under control of the Chinese, now we have gained our independence with Japanese-made art paper, a boon for the nation.”

The Durability of Washi
In 1928, the first Heizaburo Iwano made decorative paper for the standing screen depicting song scenes from various areas of Japan (shūki chihō fuzoku uta byōbu) used in the ceremonies for the enthronement of the Shōwa Emperor. Washi lovers became increasingly conscious of the superior durability of washi over silk for painting and the greater strength of hand-formed paper over machine made paper. In their Japanese style paintings (Yamato-e), Gyokudo Kawai and Shunkyo Yamamoto, both fans of washi, depicted the strict selection of materials and the process of forming paper while singing papermaking songs.
At the time, however, the mainstream was to mass-produce machine made paper that included wood pulp. Because the merchants argued for a low price of the time-consuming handmade paper. Given this circumstance, the first Heizaburo Iwano advised his relative the eighth Ichibei Iwano (1901-1976), “You should stick single mindedly to just making pure hōsho paper. Otherwise, quit.” The eighth Ichibei Iwano did just that and continued to preserve the production methods. Then after the war, he was recognized as a Living Cultural Asset for Echizen hōsho paper. Producing washi made with no concessions on quality or quantity was a hard struggle. Yet, the strict approach to making paper of the two Iwanos raised the value of Echizen washi, and it became the model for Tsutomu Mizukami’s novel Mida no mai (The dance of the Buddha).
Making Large Echizen Papers. 
Echizen washi to meet the challenges of size.  According to Edo period records, large sheets of Echizen washi included torinoko paper of 9 square shaku (30 some cm, about a foot) made in 1660, marbled uchikumo paper of 7.5 square shaku made in 1783, and around 1787 they paid the Edo government in a paper that measured l. 1.58×w.3.21 shaku. A large torinoko marbled paper from 1783 is still preserved by Echizen City.     In 1885, the Goka Takano paper mill attempted making a large paper for fusuma sliding doors and distributed washi of that size. After the first Heizaburo Iwano developed hemp paper in 1926, the production of large papers with long fibers of hemp and paper mulberry continued. The same year, the largest paper of the time measuring 5.4 square meters was produced as “Okafutoshi” wall paper for Waseda University Library. Taikan Yokoyama and Kanzan Shimura painted the work Meian (Light and Shadow) on this paper. And with that it was shown that in size washi vastly outdid both silk and Chinese paper.
In 1983 after the International Paper Conference in Kyoto, the twelfth Hikozaemon Yanase from the Ueyama paper mill demonstrated making a paper 5.5 meters square called Echizen taihōshi in front of people from around the world visiting the Echizen Paper Village. Then the Fukui artist Gosen Watanabe made the ink painting Tōjinbō (5.5 X 11 m ; Mikuni Musuem, Sakai City) on the first two papers formed. 
In 1989, at the IMADATE exhibition event having as its theme the Charm of Washi, the Fukui Prefecture Washi Industrial Union with the cooperation of the Ueyama paper mill produced Heisei daishi paper measuring 7.1 X 4.3 m. Six artists, including Javier Mariscal from Spain and Sadamasa Motonaga, painted seven works on these papers, which were then exhibited. 
Prospects for Echizen Washi
The home of Echizen Washi produces traditional crafts using both handmade and machine skills. In addition to the two standard papers, hōsho and torinoko, other techniques were added, such as dyeing methods and multi-color patterns made in the formation process.
Currently 35 artisans are recognized as traditional craftsmen (dentōkōgeishi) and the ninth Ichibei Iwano is a Living National Treasure of "Echizen-kizuki bōsho".

On the one hand, like the hemp paper developed by Heizaburō Iwano, each of the paper mills have invented new types of art paper that are known in and out of Japan, while on the other hand the Ichibei Iwano household has continued to make paper for woodblock prints that can withstand being printed as many as three hundred times. Innovation and tradition exist side by side.

In March 2015, Echizen City established the "Echizen Kizuki Torinokoshi Preservation Society and in December of the same year, the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education designated "Echizen torinoko papermaking" as an Intangible Cultural Property. To secure domestic sources of raw materials, the Preservation Society has started cultivating the raw materials for washi. Echizen aims at future recognition from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Welcome to the home of Echizen washi
The history and works of Echizen Washi are exhibited at "Museum of Paper Crafts." The mid-Edo period house of a paper maker has been relocated and restored in "Udachi Craft Center" where visitors can see traditional craftsmen using traditional tools to make Japanese paper. At the "Papyrus Hall", people can try their hands at making Japanese paper. Plans for a public exhibition titled "Contemporary Art Imadate Paper Exhibition" presenting rare contemporary art made from paper as a material is to be held in Echizen. The impetus came in 1976 from exchange between the contemporary artist, Isao Kawai, who moved to the village of Echizen Washi and local young people. Although the exhibition was temporarily suspended, it will be resurected is in 2017 to celebrate 1300 years of Echizen washi. Please come.
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information provided and Supported by:
Iwano Heizaburo Paper mills co., Ltd.
Echizen Washi Village Paper and Culture Museum
Sugihara Yoshinao, Sugihara Shoten co., Ltd.
Fukui Fine Arts Museum
Fukui prefecture Washi Industrial Cooperative Association
Yamaguchi Syouhachi
Yamada Paper mills

Supervision by:
Nakagawa Chie, Echizen Washi Village Paper and Culture Museum

Text written by:
Sasaki Miho, Fukui Fine Arts Museum

English translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

Exhibition created by:
Ueyama Emiko, Kyoto Women's University
Nagatomo Kana, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directer:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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