Experience Making Washi at Gokayama

Japanese paper-making near Gokayama UNESCO site

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Japanese paper (washi) made in Gokayama has been designated as one of Japan's Traditional Crafts. Paper making has a history of over 1,000 year here. Our article "Washi Wonders" explains about the long history of this craft.

Although there are many places in Japan where washi has been made, such a long tradition as here in Toyama Prefecture is quite rare. Best of all, you can learn this craft today at the Gokayama Washi no Sato (Gokayama Japanese Paper Village). Let's watch the craftsmen first and then have a go and make washi ourselves!

In the step-by-step guided washi-making experience you will learn about this centuries-old craft, and you will bring back home a unique washi souvenir, made by you!

Let’s go and have a look into the Washi Experience Center!

First, let's watch a 10 minutes video about how to make Gokayama washi. This gives you a good understanding of the steps involved.

Then staff members will explain the technique of scooping that is essential for producing good washi. You step forward to the scooping tank, take a scooping frame, dip it into the liquid in the tank. The liquid contains mulberry fibers. Take the frame out flat and gently shake it from side to side to drain excess liquid. You repeat this process several times until you have a thick layer of mulberry fiber on your frame.

Take your frame to a nearby table and add decorations, which you pre-select. Then another layer of fibre water is poured over this to fix the decorations. Excess water is drained again and the frame is removed. Staff will remove more excess water with a kind of vacuum before transferring the papers to a heated metal plate. There your washi will dry completely, ready for you to take home.

These are the options for what you can make:

Washi paper: 1 sheet (yen 500)

Washi postcard: 2 cards (yen 500)

Washi bookmarks: 2 pieces (yen 300)

Washi hand fan: 1 fan (yen 1,200)

If you visit there, you might have a chance to meet Lia from the US. She had been at the center for over two years at the time of visit (in March 2018). She is one of few Westerners who underwent an apprenticeship in washi-paper making. She is an artist and paints on washi.

Usually an apprenticeship takes five to ten years, she tells guests. Now, you can do it in half an hour!

Getting there

The Gokayama Washi no Sato is located at the Michi no eki Taira, a short drive away from Gokayama UNESCO Site (8km from Ainokura, 16km from Suganuma). If you visit the Gokayama area, then stopping by here is recommended!

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher. Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative. My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines. I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy). As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail. Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village. Take care, keep well, stay safe!

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