More varieties

The primary purpose of paper used for writing and books was to record and transmit information. However, the paper type varied depending on whether the book was to be a printed or handwritten, whether it included images, as well as on the anticipated use of the information it contained.

Paper types optimized for writing

First, let us look at papers specifically optimized for writing.

Eishi (Polished paper)

As introduced in Step 1.5, Eishi is paper whose surface is leveled and smoothened by rubbing it with a hard, smooth object such as an animal tusk or a rock (fig.1.).

paper fig.1 Eishi - click to take a closer look

Uchigami (Hammered paper)

This is a type of paper in which the surface of the paper is leveled by pounding it with a wooden mallet (fig.2). The name is used for both the paper and the process. Sometimes, water is added to the paper before hammering it. This is also introduced in the video of Step 1.5.

paper fig.2 Uchigami - click to take a closer look

Dōsagami (Dōsa paper)

In addition to the eishi and uchigami types, there is the dōsagami (dōsa paper).

Dōsagami is paper varnished with a mixture of liquid glue and alum granules called dōsa in Japanese. Also known as dōsabiki (“dōsa coating”). This treatment prevents ink and paint from smudging and increases vividness. The same method is also used on silk. Using a larger amount of alum granules can cause acid deterioration of the paper.

paper fig.3 Dōsagami - click to take a closer look

Paper varieties by period

Different paper types were popular at different times in history. Here are some examples.

Shukushi (Re-used paper)

This is a traditional version of recycled paper (fig.4). Because of the ink on the paper that was re-processed, it has a distinctive greyish color. It has been in use since the Heian period (794-1185).

paper fig.4 Shukushi - (Left) by Paper Museum
Click to take a closer look [Left][Right]

Suibaragami (Suibara paper)

Also known as sugiharagami, sugihara-shi or suibara-shi. It was first used in the medieval period (1185-1602) and was particularly favored by the members of the warrior class. It was made by adding rice flour to paper mulberry (kōzo) fibers to make the surface smoother (fig.5).

paper fig.5 Suibaragami - Click to take a closer look

Maniaigami (literally, “makeshift paper”)

Paper made by adding clay or other mineral to gampi fibers. Because of its sturdiness, it was used on such items as sliding doors (fusuma) and ornamental folding screens (byōbu). In books, it was used to make Muromachi-period illustrated books (known as “Nara ehon”, fig. 6).

paper fig.6 Maniaigami - Click to take a closer look

Sukikaeshi

Like the shukushi, it is a kind of recycled paper, but it differs from it in that substances other than plant fibers were used to make the pulp. It was used in Edo-period mass-market books and on the back of covers to increase the thickness (fig. 7).

paper fig.7 Sukikaeshi - Click to take a closer look

Papers with distinctive textures

Some papers have very unique “bumpy” textures unlike the smooth surface that most of us expect in paper. Here are two examples:

Danshi (sometimes called “Ceremony paper”)

The paper has a creased texture that is obtained by hanging the sheets on a cord when they are dried (fig.8).

paper fig.8. Danshi - Click to take a closer look

Chirimen (Japanese crepe texture paper)

The name chirimen originally referred to roughly woven silk. Chirimen paper is meant to replicate the rough texture of roughly woven silk. The effect can be obtained by working choshi paper after it is printed so that fine creases appear throughout.

In figure 9 you can see an example of a book printed in both regular and chirimen paper. As you can see, the chirimen version is smaller than the regular one because of the creping process.

paper fig.9. Chirimen
Take a closer look [Left] [Right] [books, before and after]
More pages are available at the National Diet Library Digital Collection

Look around you!

As you can see paper comes in many different forms that suit different purposes. If you know of any unique kinds of paper used in your culture, please share them with us in the comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Keio University