Early in the 17th century, Hagiwara Kiuemon, a resident of a small village in Uchiyama district went to learn how to make paper in Mino, itself famous for its handmade papers. On returning home, he began making paper and from these simple beginnings, the craft flourished in this area where the heavy snowfalls have contributed to the techniques of this fine handmade paper.
Written during the Nara period (710-794), reference is made to papers from this area in such ancient documents to be found in the Shosoin Repository in Nara. Further evidence of the long history of Etchu Washi can also be found in the Heian period (794-1185) document on court protocol, the Engishiki, in which it is recorded that paper was used to pay taxes.
It is thought that Mino Washi dates back to the Nara period (710-794), because records at the Shoso-in Repository show that it was used for a census during the 8th century. By the Muromachi period (1392-1573) the Rokusaiichi paper market was being held. This was set up by the locally influential Toki Nariyori and Mino Washi were shipped to Kyoto, Osaka and Ise, making it one of the best known papers of its times.
Legend has it that some 1,500 years ago, a beautiful princess came to the village of Okatagawa and taught the people there how to make paper. In the Nara period (710-794) the paper was highly respected for the copying of Buddhist sutras. Then, when paper began to be used in large quantities by the warrior class, some very high quality papers such as Echizen Hosho were produced in large amounts and using improved techniques.
The fact that the imperial court was supplied with paper from the province of Inaba (Inshu) is noted in the Engishiki, the Heian period (794-1185) document on official court dealings. By the beginning of the 18th century, the making of Inshu Washi had become centered on two villages and a paper for the exclusive use of the local clan was being produced.
While mention is made of Sekishu in the Engishiki, a Heian period (794-1185) document on court protocol, a more direct reference to paper is made in the Kamisuki Chohoki, a ""A Manual of Papermaking"" published in 1798. It says that when a Kakinomotono Hitomaro went to take up the post of protector in the province of Iwami (Shimane prefecture), he taught the people there how to make paper.
A 9th-century document confirms that the history of Awa Washi goes back some 1,300 years to times when a family known as Inbe serving the Imperial court, was growing flax and paper mulberry and producing cloth and paper.
While mention is made of an Iyo paper in the Engishiki, an official document on court protocol written in the Heian period (794-1185), hard facts about Ozu Washi do not exist until the 18th century. The monk, Zennoshin was responsible for teaching people how to make paper, when he came to one of the villages of the Ozu clan, and what developed into a craft industry flourished under the protection and patronage of the clan.
Various kinds of paper for calligraphy, paper crafts, art papers and specialist papers to be used in the home are made under a name, which is mentioned in connection with paper presented to the court in an official Heian period (794-1185) document, the Engishiki. This has led people to believe that Tosa was already a center for the production of paper during this period.