Washi is Japanese hand-made paper. It is made from ‘kozo’ (paper mulberry). One of my Japanese friends launched a washi-making event with her friends. They make washi in winter. The other day, I visited the women’s group in a mountainous area of western Tokyo. Let me show how washi is made from kozo.
(1) Branches are cut from a kozo tree.
(2) The branches are bundled together and carried to the workshop.
(3) The kozo branches are put in a container and steamed for about four hours.
(4) Taking a branch from the steamer, she is checking whether it is soft enough.
(5) After four hours, they peel the bark from the branches. Only the bark is used to make washi.
(6) The peeled bark is dried.
I was able to observe these steps up to the drying. To get this far, it took almost one day. After drying the peeled bark, the members get together on another day. Then they will put the peels in water and separate the brown part from the white (yellow) part. The white (yellow) part, which contains fiber, is crushed into small pieces. Those are used for washi paper.
I am not sure whether I can visit the group again to observe those steps, but it was a ‘beary’ wonderful experience for me today to see the women ‘bear’ washi paper. I was ‘beary’ impressed with their strenuous efforts and the laborious process of washi-making.