Papermaking starts by growing the paper mulberry trees. The immaculate white is born by snow bleaching.

Home grown kōzo and handmade paper
Japanese handmade paper, washi, is tough and soft with long fibers. Its high reputation for durability stems from there being samples dating back to over a thousand years ago. Paper formed so integral a part of many aspects of Japanese life that even today 77 papermaking villages in areas from the North to the South of Japan preserve their regional methods of papermaking. In Niigata prefecture, papermaking once was a popular side job for the farmers and even now, despite the detrimental effects of the infiltration of Western paper and the depopulation of rural areas, the traditional methods are still being actively passed down. One of these workshops is the Echigo Kadode Washi.
Papermaking in Kadoide
Kadoide is a village in the foothills of Kariwa Kurohime Mountain, situated in the Southern part of Central Nigata prefecture. Reputedly the name “Kadoide” comes from its location close to the gates of a very powerful family in the medieval period. It used to be that there were three types of paper being made in this region: the Isawa paper (thick paper for making umbrellas and kites), Oguni paper (thin paper for shōji-style sliding doors), and Fuwata paper (thick shōji paper used in areas near the coast where the wind is strong). In the mid 1950s, there were about five farmers making paper within the two hundred household village, however, by the time the Japanese economic bubble burst in the early 1990s, Kobayashi Yasuo’s was the only house still producing paper. Sensing a state of crisis, Kobayashi aimed at making traditional Japanese paper, starting from the cultivation of paper mulberry (kōzo) trees.
Takashi no Kigami
Wishing to invigorate his native area, Kobayashi has taken on papermaking as his main job, rather than a side job while doing farm work. He uses kōzo he has grown himself and puts his energy into producing traditional handmade paper by utilizing to the utmost the benefits of nature so as to support a healthy ecological environment. The workshop gets its name, Takashi Kigami Workshop, from the ancient name for Niigata combined with the word for “untreated hand-formed washi.”
Paper dyed with the Echigo flora
Barks and nuts growing wild in the area, such as walnut, lindera, kudzu, bayberry, and weigela are used to dye the paper material. Energy is also put into developing new products in order to broaden the applications and convey the beauty of Japanese paper. 
A job demanding patience and dedication
Kōzo (paper mulberry) cultivation starts in spring. Folowing the autumn harvest, the branches are steamed, the bark peeled off and then dried. After stripping off the outer bark, the fibers are rinsed, simmered in alkaline water, leached with ash lye, and the impurities picked out before beating them. Only then does the winter papermaking start. Each process is done with care and takes time using the traditional papermaking techniques of Echigo Kadoide paper.  
Winter, the papermaking season  
Winter with its low temperatures is the best season for making high-quality Japanese paper, since the reduced number of bacteria in the water makes it less likely that the viscus agent, either tororo-aoi (abelmoschus manihot) or noriutsugi (panicled hydrangea), go bad. It also makes a lot of sense to do the papermaking during this season when deep snows close off the village and halt the farm work. One of the characteristics of Echigo Kadoide paper workshops is number of young papermakers.
Winter, storage in a snow chamber
The paper sheets made during the winter are stored as stacked wet paper. In the past the damp paper was buried under the snow. Since the snow would pile on top of the papers, they used bamboo poles to mark where it was. They would dig the papers up on a sunny day in March when they could sundry the papers on boards. Today, they dig a hole in the snow to make a snow chamber to store the damp papers.   
Winter, snow bleaching the mulberry
Bleaching the mulberry bark on the snow is another job done in winter, in addition to the forming of sheets of paper. On sunny days in February and March the inner fibers of pealed and scraped kōzo bark are laid on snow to leach the lye out of them. The ozone released when the snow melts and the winter sun bleach the fibers to a light-filled gentle white of graceful elegance. This natural white differs totally from that achieved by chemical bleaching.
Echigo Kadoide Washi
Working with the local brewing company
A local brewing company supports Kobayashi’s aspiration to revitalize the village through making paper. The company approached Kobayashi with the idea of putting Niigata washi labels on Niigata sake bottles and when he took up the production of these labels, the workshop was able to insure a steady income. Sake brewing is another Nigata Prefecture industry. This is a good case in which the ideas of showcasing the local cultural features have helped to revive traditional crafts.
By: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University in collaboration with Kyoto Women's University
Credits: Story

Information provided by Echigo Kadoide Washi

Photo by Minamoto Tadayuki

Text written by Tanaka Atsuko

English Translation by Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

Exhibition created by Yamamoto Masako (Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)) and Sumiya Momoko, Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Directed by Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's 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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