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What is Japanese "Washi" paper, used for origami?

For this first blog post, I wanted to pay tribute to the raw material I use to make my creations: paper.

In the origami technique, we don't use just any material, nor any origami paper to make our folds. There is a paper that we are particularly fond of, very flexible and resistant: Washi paper.

So how is washi paper made?

"Wa" means Japanese and "Shi" means paper. Washi is the Japanese word for traditional papers. They have been made by hand in Japan since the 7th century.

It is important to know that since 2014, the "Washi" paper is included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

The latter is made by hand from the long fibres of mulberry tree bark: Kôzo.

The bark is cooked to extract the fibres, which are then beaten to soften them. The pulp obtained is then mixed with water and "Neri" in Japanese (a vegetable substance that swells in water and becomes viscous). Once this mixture is made, the craftsman recovers the substrate with a sieve, forming several layers, which will then become the future sheet of Washi paper. Once extracted, it is put to dry traditionally in the sun or on a wood fire, or on an electric plate for the more contemporary workshops.

Here is a video showing how the multi-layered mixture turns into a sheet of Washi paper:

Where is Washi paper made? How is it used?

The main places where Washi paper is made are in Japan. Only one workshop exists in Europe, and that's in France, in the Camargue, precisely in Arles. Indeed, the Mediterranean climate is quite similar to the subtropical climate found in Japan, which favours the growth of mulberry trees in the region.

In addition to its use for our folding, its strength and transparency also allow it to be used in the restoration of books and documents or for traditional Japanese card making. It can also be used for cardboard, marouflage or bookbinding activities.

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