Washi paper made from discarded fruit and vegetables
Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.
We interviewed washi paper craftspeople all over Japan. Most of the people we interviewed told us that there’s a shortage of raw materials for making washi. Therefore, instead of relying solely on producers, the craftspeople themselves grow paper mulberries, such as kozo, mitsumata, and gampi. We ourselves could see that as a concern; but there was good news. It was a story related to Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd., whom we had interviewed before. They make washi paper from discarded fruit and vegetables. They market that paper as stationery.
Inspired by her younger son’s research
Ms. Masami Igarashi is a craftswoman at Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd. The idea of making paper out of food waste came from the research that Ms. Igarashi’s son started when he was in the fourth grade in elementary school. His name is Yuto, and he’s now in the third grade in junior high school.
He experimented to see whether paper could be made from familiar foods such as fruit and vegetables from the garden, or snacks such as peanuts. Over the years he created many research files, containing prototype papers that he made through experimentation. Not only did he make paper, but his research extended to the colors, the water absorbency, and the durability of paper.
Ms. Masami Igarashi and her son Yuto
The catalyst for commercialization was a branding seminar held by the prefecture
Mr. Naohiro Niiyama is a designer from Sabae City, and the head of the TSUGI design agency. At a branding seminar held in Fukui Prefecture in 2019, Mr. Niiyama and Ms. Masami Igarashi teamed up and collaborated on a new washi product together.
At that time, while they were searching for new ideas, they came across Yuto’s research project. Mr. Niiyama liked it, and from there the concept of a new washi product began to crystallize. Thus, based on the results of Yuto’s research, “Food Paper” was born. This new brand combines the traditional technique of handmade washi with a new material—namely, food. Ms. Igarashi, a traditional craftswoman, worked in earnest to commercialize the product. According to Ms. Igarashi, Yuto’s research files were useful regarding the proportions of vegetables and kozo.
Winning the “Best MVP Award”, and going on to commercialization
The final proposal at the seminar was received so well that it won the “Best MVP Award”. This accolade allowed Ms. Igarashi and Mr. Niiyama to exhibit the products at an exhibition in Tokyo; and it opened the door to commercialization.
The first five products using “Food Paper” were: notebooks; message cards; shoulder bags; accessory cases; and paper grocery bags. Those products are made from paper using the peel/skin of several kinds of fruit and vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, carrots, and mandarins. The peel/skin is combined with kozo (paper mulberry), hemp, and so on. The grain is different from that of Western paper, and the color and texture of the fruit and vegetables is unique, too.
Sustainability, tradition, and education
“Food Paper” is made from the peel/skin of fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away as food waste. And it is made using the same traditional washi-making method. It can also be made by machine, which allows for mass-production. In other words, Food Paper is traditionally-made, as well as being environmentally-friendly. As stationery paper for children, it expands the possibilities of paper. It is a sustainable local product, and it might well become the standard paper of the future.
Igarashi Seishi Co. Ltd.
- 12-14 Iwamoto-cho, Echizen-shi,
Fukui, 915-0233 Japan