My experience of making washi paper during the workshop at Ozu Washi

In this article, I will tell you about Ozu Washi, a washi paper shop with a history spanning over 360 years.

I participated in the washi making workshop which took place on the first floor of the shop. Here you can experience making traditional Japanese paper washi on your own. You can choose your course out of two options at the time of booking.

Standard course:
You can choose from one of the following options: washi paper, rakusui-shi (watermarked paper) or design washi. It takes about one hour to make one paper sheet.

Private course:
Maximum 5 people per hour. You can use the tools (from business card size to A3 size) and materials available in the workshop to get your creative juices flowing.

I participated in the private course and had the opportunity to experience making three different types of washi. You don’t need to bring anything since they will give you a waterproof apron.

How to make washi paper?

Before the experience, you watch a video of how to make washi paper.

After checking a branch of a mulberry tree called kouzo, a material for washi, you are explained the process of making washi and given materials in English that describe a sequence of steps to be done.

The next step is learning the difference between washi paper and western paper. When you tear western paper to pieces by hand, its surface and the cut remain almost smooth, whereas the rough surface of washi paper develops fluffy fibers at the cut place. The reason is linked to the differences in the fibers, and intertwined fibers make washi paper sturdy.

Hand-made washi making

For design washi, at first, you need to choose a picture and decoration to put on it. Once the decision is done, it’s time to get messy!

This large container has tree bark, water and neri, hereafter referred asrawmaterials to make washi. Neri is a sticky and heat-sensitive liquid that helps the fibers to distribute evenly in the water.

First, scoop the slurry with suketa
Suketa is a tool which is usually made of bamboo splints.

Then, shake suketa back and forth to coalesce the fibers. Looks easy at first glance, but actually difficult!

Step 1: Tilt suketa forwards to fill it with raw material and swing it back to distribute the fibers evenly on the screen, in a thin layer. 

Step 2: Shake it back and forth to coalesce the fibers into a sheet. Depending on how many times you fill up and then swing the tray, the paper gradually develops your preferred thickness.

Step 3: Same as the first step, quickly tilt suketa forwards to fill it with raw material and swing it back.

2.Designing the sheets
Decorate your paper sheet by placing paper strips, pressed flowers and leaves on it. Remove the freshly entwined fibers from the suketa and touch it - feels very soft and wobbly!

You can draw your pattern by hand, sprinkle it with dried kouzo or pulp, gold or silver foil to create your favorite design.

Once you are done with decoration, sprinkle drops onto the surface of the sheet and give it a final fix to seal your work.

I also experienced making rakusui-shi paper. By sprinkling drops from above in this way, you add a rakusui pattern to washi. Changing the size of the water droplets out of the shower allows you to adjust the size of the rakusui pattern to your liking.

3. Drying (removing water from the sheets)

In order to prevent a soft and fluffy freshly-made paper from losing its shape when touched, remove water from paper sheets in the drying machine and let it dry.

4. Drying the paper

Place your sheet on a metal board heated to about 60 degrees and until the sheets are fully dry.

Gently stroke the sheets with a brush outwards from the center. It dries in less than 10 minutes so you can peel it off by yourself.

5. Imprinting an Ozu Washi stamp onto the creations

Stamp your artwork with an Ozu Washi seal. You can choose between a colorless embossed uneven seal or vermillion inkpad.

That’s all, your original handmade washi is completed!

If you look at it through the light, you can see the fineness of the fiber and feel the charm of washi, which is different from what you see from the front. Take it home and put it on a display!

Finally

Looks easy, but it’s actually difficult. The whole process of making a handmade washi paper is a seamless good fun that can be enjoyed by old and young, and will definitely create wonderful memories from your trip to Japan. Don’t hesitate to visit if you’re in Tokyo!

Access: Ozu Washi is  in a 2-minute walk from JR Shin-Nihonbashi Station, a 7-minute walk from Mitsukoshimae Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and Hanzomon Line, and a 5-minute walk from Kodenmacho Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.

Official HP: https://www.ozuwashi.net/