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Karakami

The word Karakami originally referred to paper imported from China (Kara = Cathay) but over time it came to indicate all paper treated with the gubiki technique and then decorated with printed patterns (using woodblock) using a mixture of mica and nikawa glue. Color can be added to both the shell white used in the gubiki method and to the mixture of mica and nikawa glue used for the patterns, so karakami can be made in a wide range of different color combinations.

Another example of paper decorating techniques using minerals is called karakami (Chinese-style paper).

Karakami

The word Karakami originally referred to paper imported from China (Kara = Cathay) but over time it came to indicate all paper treated with the gubiki technique and then decorated with printed patterns (using woodblock) using a mixture of mica and nikawa glue. Color can be added to both the shell white used in the gubiki method and to the mixture of mica and nikawa glue used for the patterns, so karakami can be made in a wide range of different color combinations.

Initially karakami was imported from China during the Song dynasty (960-1279), but by the Heian period it was also produced in Japan. Karakami paper made in Japan is sometimes called wasei karakami, or, “Japan-made karakami”. As with many other ancient techniques and methods, there was a revival of karakami in the Edo period (1603-1868) and a lot of books from the period make use of it.

Watch the video to see different examples of karakami from the Heian through Edo periods.

Books introduced in the video:

If you’re interested in how Japanese book culture was influenced by China and Korea, you may be interested in this other course Sino-Japanese Interaction Through Rare Books by Keio University.

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The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

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