Kurotani Washi (Japanese Paper)

Buddhism and papermaking were introduced to Japan from China around 1400 years ago. Kurotani is a papermaking town near Kyoto. Today washi is used for books, woodblock prints, wrapping, and clothing. A quick look at the papermaking process in Kurotani is shown on this web page.

Kurotani (the papermaking studio is on the right).

The papermaking studio.


Kozo (paper mulberry) stalks are cut, steamed, the bark is stripped off, then soaked and rubbed in water to remove the outer layer, then dried until needed.

Many types of plant fiber can be used to make  handmade paper.

When needed for papermaking, the kozo fiber is soaked in water for 2 to 3 days to re-hydrate the fibers.

It is cooked in an open pot for 1 1/2 hours with soda ash (or wood ash), then covered for 1 hour.

The cooked fiber is rinsed, cleaned, then beat to a pulp.

It is beat here first for an hour, then it is...

...mixed with water and beat in a hollander beater for 10 minutes, then the pulp is emptied into a large vat.


Dyed pulp is used to make colored paper. Neri helps keep the pulp suspended in the water. Pulp, neri (a viscous solution that comes from the root of the Tororoaoi plant of the hibiscus family), and water are mixed together.

A flexible su is placed over the mold, then it is dipped and drained three times to make 20 thick postcard-size papers. The mold is tipped and drained.

Damp newspaper is carefully placed on the post to separate the wet paper. The edges of the paper are evened with a plastic ruler.

Another su is placed on top of the wet paper. A plastic pipe is rolled over this su, then it is removed.

The su is removed from the frame, the paper is carefully couched onto wet newspaper, then the su is peeled off. The finished post of newly made paper is then placed in a press for several hours (or overnight) to remove more moisture.

The paper is dried.

The pressed paper is dried on a heated drier in damp weather and in the sun on metal covered boards on good days.

The dry paper is  pressed.


Paper may be spun and woven, or decorated and used in place of cloth.

The store / museum has hands-on papermaking two-hour classes. For more information, please contact (in Japanese):

Kurotani Washi Kyodokumiai
Kurotani-cho Ayabe City
Postal Zone 623-0108
Telephone and Fax: 0773 (44) 0213

An excellent Japanese Papermaking book by Timothy Barrett
Margarita Orozco, Papermaker in Mexico
Los Leņateros Papermaking, Printmaking, and Book Arts Studio in Mexico
Printing in China 
Shibori in Kyoto, Japan 
Katazome (stencil dying) in Kyoto, Japan

Web page, photographs, and text by Carol Ventura in 2006. Please look at Carol's home page to see more about crafts around the world.