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 3 seconds The next method we look at consists in applying color to the finished paper with a writing brush or a paintbrush. This is called hakezome or “brush dyeing”. For example, in this light brown cover here, if we look at it from close by we see the marks of the brush used to paint it, so the brush strokes are visible. This was colored using persimmon extract (kakishibu), which we introduced earlier. It was believed to repel insects. By making repeated applications, a darker shade of brown could be obtained. Then here, the color is added in such a way as to form patterns on the cover. This kind of decoration is called hakebiki (“brush-drawing”) instead of just hakezome (“brush-dyeing”).

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds Although this coloring technique was used on less elaborate book covers, for their personal amusement, craftsmen still used their creativity to add variety to a task that could easily become tedious. If you look at this book you see that the first volume has straight horizontal stripes, but on this one the lines run diagonally, and then here they form a wave pattern, or, like here, they crisscross, or sometimes they would alternate vertical and horizontal stripes. This variety of different patterns is not rare to come across.

Hakezome (brush-dyeing)

In the hakezome method, the color is applied with a paintbrush to the finished book.

Sometimes the brush strokes were deliberately left visible to form patterns. The most common color is brown obtained from persimmon extract. It was typically used on basic book covers made by simply folding a sheet of paper in two. Because many books of this kind are courtiers’ journals, this type of cover is known as “journal-style cover” (kiroku hyōshi).

Though simple, the technique still allowed for creative expression. Watch the video to see some examples.

Books introduced in the video:

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Keio University