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.
It was then that the Shogunate and feudal lords gave this paper producing area their patronage and further developments were made. In more recent times many artists including the famous painter, Taikan Yokoyama, have favored Echizen Washi, which are well known throughout the country.
Epitomizing Japanese culture, Echizen Washi have an almost indescribable richness and quality springing from their strength and suppleness, while also having a fine surface quality full of warmth and texture that only handmade paper boasts. The range of papers is immense including fine art papers, printing papers and some for the printing of woodblock prints. Others are made for calligraphy, envelopes and writing paper. Exclusive papers are also made for diplomas and a fine translucent paper is produced for the sliding screens or shoji of the traditional house.
This paper, infused with the spirit of Japanese culture, has an elegant, warm texture and possesses an "unbleached (kinari)" rich sensibility which words like strength or personality cannot even begin to describe.
How to make
Mulberry, mitsumata (edgeworthia chrysantha), ganpi and hemp are the main raw materials to which a mucilaginous material made from tororo aoi (hibiscus) is added; they are then processed using traditional papermaking methods like “nagashi-zuki” or “tame-zuki.” After the main ingredients have been reduced to liquid form and placed in a paper-making vat (“sukiso”), they are deftly hand-stirred with a bamboo-netted tool called “sukiketa.” As the liquid pulp is moved with a subtle rocking motion around the bamboo screen of the “sukiketa,” the fibers of the paper start to entangle creating sheets of beautiful paper.