Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Keio University's online course, The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds Although there is no formal system to classify the papers used in traditional Japanese books, there is a great variety. One of the ways to treat the paper during the production stage of the sheet is to add rice flour or rock or mineral powder to the mixture. Paper without such additives is called kigami (“raw paper”) or Kisukigami (“processed paper”). Kigami prepared for use, by, for example, treating it to make it easier to write on or prevent smudging, is called jukushi (“finished paper”). Two important finishes are the eishi (“polished paper”) and the uchigami (“hammered paper”). Here we have a book in the Shido Bunko collection that is made of eishi paper.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds The part where the writing goes was rubbed with a hard object such as the tusk of a wild boar to make it easier to write on it.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 seconds In this book here, the uchigami technique was applied to the paper. The entire sheet was hammered with a wooden mallet, again, to make it easier to write on it. When you examine a book made by uchigami paper closer, you can find traces of water. When you hold it, you will also find that it’s heavy. That is the result of this uchigami process. In addition to these processes, there are many ways to prepare or decorate paper, including mica-based methods and the tsugigami process. These will be introduced in Week 2. Now, let’s continue to explore the varieties of washi paper.

Types of washi paper for Japanese traditional books

Although sheets of white paper may look the same and are made using basically the same process, if you look carefully, you’ll notice significant differences.

Here we look at these differences in detail. First, watch the video to see some actual examples.

Types of papers introduced in the video

  • Kigami, Kisukigami (raw paper) - paper without additives
  • Jukushi (finished paper) - specially-treated Kigami paper for a variety of uses
  • Eishi (polished paper) - a kind of jukushi in which the part where the writing goes is first rubbed with a hard object
  • Uchigami (hammered paper) - another kind of jukushi; the entire sheet is hammered with a wooden mallet
  • Tsugigami (connected paper) - multiple kinds of papers connected together; more details in week 2
  • Mica-based paper - paper decorated with mica; more details in week 2

Books introduced in the video:

Let’s give it a try!

The video introduced the uchigami or “hammering” technique. With something hard (preferably a wooden object), try to beat a thick piece of paper you have at hand. Has this treatment made the paper easier to write on?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Keio University