Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This time she visits Yatsuomachi, a town in Toyama prefecture, where the making of traditional, handmade washi paper remains alive. She’s introduced to a type of box made for holding stationery, constructed of sturdy washi, adorned with patterns made by a technique known as katazome.
Mr. Yoshida explained that, “doing this before drying it gives the paper durability. Even when it gets wet, it won’t tear.” While still damp, I put my hand on the washi, and it felt icy and smooth! I could even feel the subtle surface irregularity from the application of the konnyaku nori.
The step that follows is “stencil-dyeing” the dried washi. For this, the hand-carved katagami stencil is laid atop the paper, and the resistance medium, a paste composed of glutinous rice and rice bran, is spread over it. When this paste dries, red and yellow pigments are applied, then the color infusion is stopped and fixed using a broth derived from boiled soybeans. I was stunned by the fact that throughout every step in the manufacturing, plants and other natural food ingredients are used. Yet another thing that impressed me was that the pigments are worked into the irregular uncovered areas with a brush that is so coarse it makes a rough, abrasive sound against the surface. Because the paper is so strong and robust, it can sustain this.
This time, my purchase was the bunko-bako, the stationery box made of paper, using these techniques. It’s good for holding letters and documents, but also for storing chargers and USB cables and such. The botanical and geometric patterns are, of course, beautiful to behold; but in addition, the subtle irregularities of the washi paper’s texture are comforting to the touch. Beauty emerging from strength — I gain encouragement every time I place my hand upon it.
Yuka Kashino, known as KASHIYUKA, is a member of the electro-pop group Perfume. New items from "Perfume Closet" clothing line will be coming out this Spring. Her favorite hotel, with its lovely bar, is the Nara Hotel. Website:http://www.perfume-web.jp