interview 14

“We make paper with nature”
Kurotani Washi Cooperative Association Mr. Shinji Hayashi, President, Ms. Mutsuko Yamashiro, Executive Director (est. 1892 / Ayabe City, Kyoto Prefecture)
Kurotani washi has been making for more than 800 years in a village located in the valley of the Kurotani River, where a clear stream flows through a deep mountainous area that still retains its natural beauty, just 1.5 hours’ drive from north of Kyoto City. The winters here are extremely cold, not ideal for agriculture. However, the climate was suitable for paper production. This was like the reason for the development of eyeglass manufacturing in Sabae. We interviewed Mr. Hayashi and Ms. Yamashiro, papermaking artisans of the Kurotani Washi cooperative Association, about Kurotani washi.
About Kurotani Washi
Japanese washi paper that will last for centuries
Kurotani Washi is made from high-quality mulberry tree. The glue needed to make paper is extracted from the roots of the Aibika(Tororoaoi). All materials are natural. And each sheet is handmade by craftsmen. As a result, it is strong, durable, and long-lasting. Because of these characteristics, Kurotani Washi has been used for a long time as paper for lanterns, Japanese umbrellas, shoji screens, and kimono, partly because of its proximity to the capital of Kyoto. Kurotani Washi is a Japanese paper that will last for centuries.

Washi paper and Craftsmen
One craftsman for all processes
In the past, almost everyone in the village living in Kurotani worked to make Kurotani washi. But most of the craftsmen making Kurotani washi now are actually from other regions. Kurotani is a town made up of people who love washi paper. And there is one more thing that might be a little different. The process of making Kurotani washi involves many detailed steps, from processing the raw materials to making the paper. And Each craftsman handles the entire process alone. It may sound more efficient to divide works, but we have been doing like this way. This is because every process affects the quality of the paper.

About Succession
Inheriting not only the technique, but also the passion for paper
People here are not from Kurotani and took over the family business, they came all the way from different regions to make paper and have the desire to do it, so I think that motivation is very strong. It is very grateful for Kurotani that it has been passed on with such powerful intentions.
Meaning of tradition
What used to be a common is no longer common
Work that was taken for granted by craftsmen in the past is no longer considered usual today. However, I think preserving the tradition in the way it was, and preserving it for the future, is what tradition is all about. And while the basic principles remain the same, it is important to continue the tradition of making something that fits the world while keeping the good qualities in mind.
Our values
Keep making paper by hand because we love it
Out value is to continue to make paper by hand. Why? Because we like the process of making paper. If you ask me why I make paper, it’s because I love to make it. It happens to have customers who use it, and it has become a business. I don’t see the value in just making a profit by eliminating some processes. I can’t compromise any of the process. I would like to continue to make washi together with nature, from the making of the raw material, with the help of nature.