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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds Moving on, I will now explain another method that involves lightly laying dyed paper onto a finished layer of white paper, as in the kumogami at which we looked earlier. First, starting with the item in the middle here, it is an extremely rare example. You should be able to see this pattern over the fibers that looks like many tiny waves; it is called ramonshi. The ra in the word ramon means “silk gauze,” and it is so named because the finish resembles the weaving pattern of thin silk. This style can only be seen in decorated papers from the late Heian period (11th-12th c.) and is exceedingly rare.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds This piece here is merely a small fragment taken from a large book but even so it is incredibly valuable. Besides ramonshi, another type of decorated paper that can only be seen in 11th and 12th century examples is the paper known as tobikumogami (“floating cloud paper”). Here is an example. This, too, was made by laying small scraps of dyed paper over white paper as to resemble clouds floating in the sky. In early examples, the clouds were quite large, but as time passed the clouds become smaller and smaller. This example has rather small clouds and, like the ramonshi paper example, it is just a fragment of a larger book.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds Also like the previous example, it is exceedingly rare and very valuable despite its small size. Finally, there are some examples of the two techniques combined, that is, the cloud shapes have a ramonshi texture. Like the other examples we have seen so far, these can only be seen in Heian-period items and are extremely rare.

Ramonshi and tobikumogami

In this Step, we look at two paper types that are created by overlaying thin layers of dyed paper onto a sheet of white paper: ramonshi and tobikumogami.

Ramonshi (literally, “silk gauze-patterned paper”) is created by laying indigo or purple paper material onto finished paper to create a design that resembles the texture of silk gauze (ra). The only known examples of this kind of paper are from the Heian period. To this day, the exact manufacturing method for ramonshi is unclear.

Tobikumogami (“Floating-cloud paper”) is made by laying paper material dyed with purple and indigo in patches on top of the finished paper as to resemble floating clouds. Like ramonshi, the only known examples of this kind of decoration are from the Heian period. During the Edo period, there was a revival of tobikumogami, but the shape of the clouds in these later examples is different from the older examples, and so is the overall feel of the paper. Some say that the older the example, the larger the size of the clouds.

Although both ramonshi and tobikumogami are extremely rare, even rarer are examples of tobikumo paper decorated with ramon patterns and vice versa.

Watch the video to see actual examples.

You can also find some more examples in SEE ALSO section at the bottom of this page.

Book introduced in the video:

  • Ko Tekagami (Small Mirror of Calligraphy), Meiji period.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

Keio University