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Rōsen and yakie

Rōsen and yakie
There are other papers that, like karakami, came to Japan from China. They are these examples here. First, I don’t know if you can see well from the video, but you should be able to see these tree patterns here. More than colored, the patterns have a shine to them. This one here was once part of a book and has a similar overall feel, the patterns seem to float on the surface of the page, and here too there is this extremely fine geometric pattern, and I think you can see that the shapes have a shine to them. Because it looks like the paper was coated with wax (although it was not), it is called “wax-rubbed paper” (rōsen).
First used in the Heian period, it came into vogue again in the Edo period (1603-1868). To make it, the patterns are first carved onto wooden blocks and then gubiki color paper is placed on them which is rubbed with a hard object so that the texture on the blocks transfers to the paper. So in rōsen paper, the design is applied by friction. What we have here looks somewhat similar to rōsen but the patterns are not glossy. These are called yakie (“branded pictures”). The designs were engraved on metal printing plates which are then heated and “branded” onto gubiki color paper.
This is another way to add designs to the paper, and, like rōsen, it began to be used in the Heian period but came into vogue again in the Edo period. If the plates are pressed too hard the paper gets burned in these areas where the color is lighter, the surface layer of the paper has fallen off. This is a characteristic of yakie decoration.

Next, we look at other kinds of paper that, like karakami, originally came to Japan from China.

To make rōsen (wax-rubbed paper), gubiki paper (see Step 2.14) is placed on a block engraved with patterns and rubbed with an animal tusk (or other hard object) until the patterns are impressed on the paper. Because the patterns seem to be made with wax (), it is called “wax-rubbed paper” even though wax is not used in the process. Like before, the early examples date from the Heian period but it became popular again in the Edo period.

The yakie (“branded pictures”) technique consists in heating up metal plates shaped with various designs and then pressing them onto the paper. This technique was also used in the Heian period but it is rarer than rōsen paper. 17th century examples are much easier to find.

It is not easy tell the difference between rōsen and yakie from a photograph. The trick is to look at the darker areas of the page (the actual printed patterns) to see if they are glossy. Watch the video to see what they look like.

Books introduced in the video

books on the table

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The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books

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