Japanese washi paper is a delicate type of paper, that has been used for centuries in Japan. You may have seen or heard the term “washi tape” at a stationary store, or in DIY project instructions. Washi tape comes in many colors and patterns, and can be used for decorating objects such as notebooks or scrapbooks. Even in Japan, they are very popular for decorating. However, there is more to washi than just colorful tape.
The technique of creating washi came to Japan from China during 610AD. It later became a rare and expensive entity, which people with a high social status could only use. During the Edo period the demand for washi increased across Japan, leading to a proliferation in washi making knowledge. The method of making the paper saw changes depending on the region’s climate and local natural materials.
Washi has been used for many years in Japan for literature, letters, home doors, and artwork, and the delicate paper still has a number of traditional usage in modern Japan. Regarding traditional Japanese houses, washi plays an important part in slide doors and interior design. Traditional Japanese houses have sliding doors called shoji that either become a wall to separate rooms, or become an entrance from the courtyard or the small indoor garden. These doors are made from a wooden framework, and a large piece of washi. The paper is glued to the wood, creating a simple and elegant door. Washi is used because of its weightlessness and durability. Also, the small fine fibers that overlap with each other produce a texture that has a subtle roughness. When the sun shines on the shoji door, the washi creates a soft light that diffuses and brightens up the whole room. This warm and subtle light is indispensable for creating the relaxing ambience that is one of the greatest features of traditional Japanese houses.