The secrets of Japanese washi paper

22 Jun 2017 in So Design

It's used in Japanese art, furniture, clothes and wallpaper. But what exactly is washi – and how is it made?

Hohino Resorts KAI Kawaji (1)

Washi literally means “Japanese paper”. More specifically, it’s a type of high-grade paper hand-made using traditional methods – and highly prized for its exceptional quality.

If you visit Japan, you’re likely to come across washi without realizing it. It’s used in shoji screens, lampshades and book covers, kites and origami – and even in wallpaper. Such is its cultural importance that washi has earned a place in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Hohino Resorts KAI Kawaji

Today, traditional washi-making is increasingly rare, but a number of small producers still exist. One such company is Fukuda Seishi in mountainous Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. If you stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji, you’ll have a chance to see the company’s traditional methods in a demonstration at your hotel. You’ll even be able to try your hand at creating your own washi!

So, how is washi made? The raw material usually comes from the kozo, a type of mulberry bush. First, the inner bark is removed, boiled and pounded to loosen the individual fibres. Next, the pounded fibre is added to a large quantity of water and a glue made from the roots of tororo-aoi (sunset hibiscus). To form a sheet of washi paper, you scoop up this solution on a sieve frame and carefully drain it, leaving it to dry overnight.

Washi paper

It may sound like a lot of effort, but washi paper is unlike any other. The way the fibres bind make it stronger, more flexible, more absorbent and lighter than standard paper. And that’s precisely why it can be used in so many ways – and what makes it’s so special to Japanese culture.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Kawaji

Would you like to find out more? Subscribe to our mailing list!

* indicates required



Hokkaido’s snow sculpture festivals

31 Jan 2018 in Have Fun

Wrap up warm and head to Hokkaido for epic snow sculptures, 100-metre snow slides and sub-zero concerts! Read more


Kirie: the art of paper cutting

06 Feb 2019 in So Design

It’s amazing what can be done with a piece of paper and a precise craft knife! Read more


Aomori Indigo Terrace: new style, old methods

07 Jun 2017 in So Design

Discover how local artists have revived classical indigo-dyeing to create contemporary style for a new terrace at Hoshino Resort Aomoriya. Read more



A “lifestyle” kimono created by designer Jotaro Saito at HOSHINOYA Tokyo

01 Feb 2017 in So Design

Jotaro Saito has created, for this exceptional resort in the heart of Tokyo, a "lifestyle" kimono - designer version. Get a new look, adopt the Japanese lifestyle! Read more


Karakami: the design and elegance of Japanese printed paper

23 May 2016 in So Design

Do you know the secret to manufacturing the famous Japanese handcrafted Karakami printed paper? A marriage of modern design and a great skill by means of an age-old handcrafting production technique... Read more


Contest: your chance to win hand-crafted washi objects

14 Mar 2018 in Contest

This month, we’re giving away 3 beautiful accessories, hand-crafted in the Japanese Alps using traditional washi paper. Fill in the form at the bottom of the article! Read more

most popular articles