Washi in My Everyday Life

washi ningyo, printmaking, kakishibu, unryushi

Streaming sunshine illuminates this handmade print on kakishibu dyed unryu paper – illustrating the warmth and translucency of washi. Washi ningyo (paper doll) kimono on right.

Part 2 – Wonderful Washi

Richard Flavin, Ryoko Haraguchi, Sind, Tokyo, kakishibu

stitched kaikshibu washi shoulder bag by Richard Flavin and Ryoko Haraguchi.

While washi  (Japanese paper) is a long-lasting Japanese traditional craft, how it became an important part of Japanese culture is almost forgotten even by most Japanese.  In thinking about washi’s role in etiquette, social rituals, and some possibly overlooked utilitarian uses,  in this post, I want to show you some of my personal selection of everyday paper items , as well as paper objects I see everyday outside.

knitted paper, paper yarn, shifu, paper thread, paper shawl

Knitted paper shawl used as a curtain, allows filtering of light and provides a subtle screen of privacy.

Of course, there are endless applications for paper in the Western world; like its use in thinks book or art conservation, book arts, calligraphy, printmaking, painting, collage and so on.

However, there are also those strictly Japanese paper arts, which are fairly well-known to the average modern day Japanese. For example, shōdo (Japanese style calligraphy),

money envelopes with noshi

chigiri-e, landscape, paper painting, paper collage

Chigiri-e landscape.

chigiri-e (paper-tearing collage),and washi ningyo (paper dolls).  Shōji and fusuma (sliding doors in Japanese style rooms) are quite common home interior components used everyday.

Ritualistic uses of paper seen every day in daily life in Japan.  Omikuji or horoscope papers tied to a branch or wooden stand.

omikuji, horoscope, superstition, Japanese life

Omikuji or paper horoscope tied to a wooden stand on temple grounds. Photo take Sept, 2018


gohei, kamisama, shintoukyou, tohoku

gohei (zig zag shaped papers) representing god, with rope (shimenawa) around old, red cypress tree. Photo taken Sept. 2018

Gohei hung from a shimenawa (rope) in this case around an ancient and sacred red cypress tree.  Reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Tonari no Totoro background scenes, yes?

Washi , as you can tell, is one of my first loves in the realm of paper.  My relationship with washi grew more intimate after moving to Japan in the 1980’s, attempting to immerse myself in the Japanese culture and language.  I came to learn that washi‘s inherent beauty exudes special powers of joy to those who use it.

More than 50 years of collecting ephemera, close to 30 years of selling washi ; (now via Paper Connection), and working with the endearing papermakers in Japan, has lead me to this state of chronic washi-on-the-brainWashi is part of my daily life both physically and emotionally and I really don’t mind at all!

Paper Woman


  1. S. Potter on November 30, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Thank you, Lauren. Japanese culture is so fascinating. I admire most its ties to natural materials that lend themselves to creating elegant art as well as everyday objects. So much nicer to receive a note on rice paper rather than a card from CVS, eh?

  2. Mary Kuchinsky on December 1, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    You’be been brain washied-a delightful post!

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