I would like to have a diverse selection of washi for artists to use, and for interior design

Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd. Mr. Kozo Igarashi

“I am the third-generation factory head,” Mr. Igarashi said. Since he was a child, he has grown up surrounded by washi—traditional Japanese paper. Echizen washi, in its heyday, was produced by more than 90 companies. Now, by only about 60 companies. However, Mr. Igarashi told us that Echizen washi was doing just fine. Indeed, Echizen washi is not fading away, in terms of quantity of production, and number of craftspeople, compared to other washi in other parts of Japan. Furthermore, there is a wide variety of Echizen washi. It is made from raw materials such as kozo (paper mulberry), mitsumata (Oriental paperbush), gampi (Diplomorpha sikokiana), and asa (Manila hemp). There are various Echizen washi products such as fusuma (traditional Japanese sliding doors made of paper), wallpaper, wrapping paper, tapestries, certificates, drawing paper, sake labels, postcards, business cards, and so on.

Recently registered as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan

“We were shocked when Echizen washi was not acknowledged as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Many of our clients asked us why it wasn’t.”
Mino washi, Sekishu washi, and Ogawa washi were registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages in 2014. I, too, had wondered why they didn’t register Echizen washi, which has good brand awareness, and high production volumes.
“Indeed, the aim of registration of UNESCO is preservation and inheritance. Popularity and production output have nothing to do with it. Simply put, Echizen washi had been complacent.”
Since they were so shocked, they set up a Preservation Society within Fukui Washi Union. Consequently, Echizen Torinoko washi, which is made of gampi, was acknowledged as a nationally-designated Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan. The cultivation of gampi is known to be very difficult, but since last year the Union started to grow them in order to protect the resources.

Washi that is also ordered by artists from overseas

“We can make large sheets of washi, up to 2.5m x 10m. It’s made as a single sheet, not two or more sheets joined together. No other company makes such a large sheet.”
When they make a large piece of washi like that, four to five people work on it using a long wooden frame. They shout to each other rhythmically in order to work in harmony. It seems difficult, but producing such unique sizes of paper is their strength. After these large washi pieces are made, Mr. Igarashi’s wife and daughter, who are craftspeople, work on them further. Those works of art are used as decoration in hotels, in restaurants, and in the entrances and lounges of public buildings.

Decorative washi made by Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.    Decorative washi made by Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.

Moreover, they receive orders from artists overseas. A world-famous artist uses a set of three sheets of their washi in the size 150cm x 260cm for etching.
 “In the USA, washi is quite popular. They like the texture of washi, and they would even keep the edges (which are usually cut off).”
Depending on the request, the company makes various kinds of washi in different sizes. They made more than 10 different kinds of washi just for that artist. Such special orders are increasing.

Large washi is made by several peopleLarge washi is made by several people
A huge drying machine for large washiA huge drying machine for large washi

New possibilities for washi products

From independent houses to apartments, the form of our dwellings has changed, and there are fewer Japanese-style rooms nowadays. Consequently, demand for fusuma paper is decreasing, although it has been their leading product. Therefore, about 20 years ago, the company started developing new products such as washi glass, washi lamps, and tapestry.
“We participated in a washi glass project for Yokohama public records office. I had seen Kagayuzen cloth held between two pieces of glass. So I visited a glass factory, and invited them to collaborate on the project.”
Washi glass with resin film is shatterproof, and it filters ultraviolet light. And light that comes through washi between the glass creates a heartwarming atmosphere. If it is for interior design, they listen to the customer’s request, and make washi that reflects their taste and needs. Even though most custom-made washi like that is for restaurants and public buildings, several orders were from private houses.

Washi glass in a restaurantWashi glass in a restaurant

A new product was born thanks to the widespread use of LED light bulbs, which don’t get hot, and don’t burn out.
“We started making washi lamps about 10 years ago. We pursued not only bright light, but also heartwarming light.”
Furthermore, together with Fukui Prefecture’s Industrial Technology Center, they developed washi that diffuses light. Changes to housing, and technological progress, have accelerated the evolution of washi products. Handmade large washi is Igarashi Seishi’s strong point.
They develop their products, taking into consideration the unique properties of washi. We look forward to future developments from the company.

The motif is a fairytale written by Kako SatoshiThe motif is a fairytale written by Kako Satoshi
Washi lamps made of paper that diffuses lightWashi lamps made of paper that diffuses light

Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.

Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.

The company was founded in 1919. Their leading product is fusuma paper. But their artistic handmade large washi, produced by craftspeople, looks like a painting, and is highly appreciated. In addition, they tirelessly create new artworks and products such as washi glass and washi lamps.

Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.

Echizen washi’s hometown, Goka, EchizenshiEchizen washi’s hometown, Goka, Echizenshi
Okamoto Shrine /Otaki Shrine that enshrines Kawakamigozen, the Paper Goddess Okamoto Shrine /Otaki Shrine that enshrines Kawakamigozen, the Paper Goddess
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