Sekishu-banshi Paper

石州和紙製品 P01-02和紙8_350

Washi is handmade paper produced using traditional Japanese techniques. In November 2014, under the single heading of “Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper,” Hosokawa-shi from Saitama Prefecture, Honmino-shi from Gifu Prefecture and Sekishu-banshi from Shimane Prefecture were registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Sekishu-banshi is produced with a refined set of constituent materials that gives it a particularly durable quality. While other forms of washi are manufactured in Sekishu—what is now the western part of Shimane Prefecture—Sekishu-banshi is distinguished, among other things, by its standardized size of 25cm x 40cm.

The history of Sekishu-banshi can be traced back to the Nara Period (710-794). It is described in the Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese tanka poetry, in works by the renowned poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, who wrote about the handmade paper of Sekishu. Sekishu was also mentioned as a major paper-producing center in the Engishiki, a record of laws and customs published during the Heian Period (794-1185). And in the Edo Period (1603-1868), merchants in Osaka highly appreciated the quality of the Sekishu-made banshi, and it became became the leading brand used for ledger paper.

Sekishu-banshi incorpoerates fibers from kozo (paper mulberry), mitsumata (Oriental paperbush) and gampi (a clove-like Japanese bush), supplemented with tororo-aoi (fermented hibiscus roots). These materials are mixed together and scooped up using a mesh screen made of bamboo or saw grass. The paste is then swayed, and the excess water is drained out. This process is repeated several times until a moist sheet of paper is formed. The overall process is called nagashi-suki, or water-disposal paper-making. Though this method is also used to produce other washi brands, the locally harvested kozo and tororo-aoi are of particularly high quality, resulting in an exceptionally durable and lustrous finished product. Sekishu-banshi is said to be so strong that it won’t rip even if folded more than 3,000 times.

Its secrets passed down to the present day, Sekishu-banshi can be found in a wide variety of products, from construction and calligraphy paper to business cards and tanzaku (small strips of paper used for haiku-writing). Locally made through the use of traditional materials and techniques, Sekishu-banshi is interlaced with the heart of Japanese culture.

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