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Online course

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Learn about the history, production and design of papers used inside Japanese rare books.

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Deepen your understanding of rare books and Japanese culture

The papers inside books can last hundreds of years if cared for correctly.

This course will look at the history of papers used inside Japanese rare books, and in other cultures across the world.

You’ll learn about the materials and technologies used to produce Japanese papers, particularly the use of traditional washi paper.

You’ll understand the crafting process used to create Japanese rare books, including the use of design and decoration techniques.

You’ll find out how to identify the different types and varieties of papers used in Japanese rare books.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsBooks tell us a lot about a country's culture. This is because books preserve not only words and pictures, but we can also use them to learn about the technologies and traditions of the country at the time the books were produced, as well as the tastes and sensibilities of the past. Hello, I am Takahiro Sasaki. I research Japanese rare books at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics. You can find a considerable variety in Japanese rare books, in the design, bindings, shape, size, and color of the covers. Such variety is quite unique to Japanese books. One of the major factors that made this diversity possible is, obviously, "paper", the main material used in books and the main topic of this course.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsJust as there are many kinds of books, there are many different types of washi -- traditional Japanese paper. They are different in color, texture, strength and durability depending on the materials used, production and processing methods. Why did Japanese people produce such a variety of paper and how did they choose paper for books? Learning about the paper used in rare books will give you a deeper understanding of Japanese culture. In this two-week course, you will learn about the paper used in old Japanese books from both a scientific and cultural perspective.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 secondsIn the first week, we will study the definition and history of Japanese paper along with its manufacturing methods and materials as well as how to distinguish the different types of washi. Then, in the second week, you will learn about Japanese papermaking techniques, focusing on the processing of the beautiful decorative papers used in books, and discuss why and when people used such decorative papers. You'll find so many beautiful Japanese rare books in our library; some books are gorgeous with beautiful covers. You'll come to understand that paper plays an important role in the beauty of rare books. I am sure you'll enjoy this course and discover interesting aspects of Japanese book culture.

Skip to 3 minutes and 10 secondsWhat's more, you will be able to enhance your knowledge of Japanese culture and art in general. Why not join us in learning about the fascinating world of washi?

When would you like to start?

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone interested in Japanese rare books and papers. It may be of particular interest to librarians and bookshop professionals, researchers and designers.

This course can also be studied alongside two companion courses, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books and Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books.

Who will you learn with?

Takahiro Sasaki

I am a professor at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics.
I am Lead Educator of the "Japanese Culture Through Rare Books" and "The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books" courses.

Makiko Shiroto

I am a lecturer at Gakushuin Women's College and a member of Society for Study of Washi Culture. I'm an Educator of the "The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books" course.

Who developed the course?

Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.

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  • Access to this course for 4 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes


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  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you're eligible
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