Echizen Paper

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Echizen paper is known as the highest quality Japanese paper, manufactured in Reihoku province of Fukui prefecture. It has a 1,500-year history and was used to make Japan’s first paper currency.

Although its precise origin is unknown, there is a cherished local folklore tale called Kawakamigozen-densetsu.  The story goes;

One day, while plowing the vegetable garden, a villager glanced at Okata river in front of him. He noticed a beautiful woman standing there. He had never seen her before.  “Life must not be easy for you because this village does not have many rice and vegetable fields. But if you use beautiful water from this river to make good paper, your life will become much easier, “she said. He told her that he did not know what paper was.  She explained, “Paper is something to write on and the noble people use it a lot.” She showed him how to blend paper with water. He was very appreciative of this information, and he asked who she was. She said that she was living in the upper bank of Okata River. Then, she disappeared into thin air. The villager was convinced that she was a Goddess. He vowed to share this paper making technique with the other villagers. Their paper making efforts eventually paid off and their life became much easier as the Goddess had promised.  Later Villagers came to call her the Goddess of the Upper Bank and built Okata shrine, where villagers and visitors have worshiped the Goddess of Paper ever since.

As time has gone on, Echizen paper has adopted new methods such as adding fibers into the paper, dropping color paint, inserting a hidden pattern you can see only under light, and so on. It is remarkable to see so many color and pattern variations in Echizen paper.  It also plays an important role in promoting Japan’s national treasures and important cultural assets.  In recent years, young designers have attempted to make clothes using Japanese paper. This tango of steadfast tradition and new imaginative adaptability must have been inspired from the Goddess who gifted us Echizen paper.

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