Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tosa Washi & Tosa Tsumugi

   We have hand-made papers called “Tosa Washi” whose history started in the Heian Period, about 1000 years ago. The Niyodo River, the cleanest limpid stream in Shikoku, runs through Ino Town and Tosa City that are areas of production of Tosa Washi. The production of its raw materials such as Kozo (paper mulberry) and Mitsumata (paperbush) and shōshi paper-making technique also developed there and made history as one of specialty goods of Kochi.

   Tosa Washi includes a large variety of quality papers and Kochi has become a famous area for producing paper thanks to new production processes and improvements by Genta Yoshii in the Meiji Period. Its tradition has been carried down in the prefecture ever since. Tosa Washi was designated the title of “Traditional Craft” by the nation in 1976.

   Tosa Washi is highly valued not only in Japan, but also in many countries including the U.S., Europe and Middle East. Paper made from Tosa Kozo is highly valued and used in restoration work such as for Japanese wood block prints and old books at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for the wall paintings at the Sistine Chapel and for collections at the Louvre. Goods made from Tosa Washi such as postcards, bookmarks and greeting cards would make good souvenirs for your friends and family.

   The production of Tosa Tsumugi started in early Taishō Period (1912-1926), when farmers weaved dyed cotton threads and sold clothes and small articles made from them. It had been popular among people as a fabric for farm clothing such as monpe (women’s work pants) for a long time.

   It is woven with cotton thread instead of silk. Its distinctive subdued colors and texture evoke the simple olden times, and has gained a secretive following across the country. The subdued tones of Tosa Tsumugi are achieved by mixing small amounts of different dyes.

   In these years, the advantages of cotton have been rediscovered again. A wide variety of products such as small accessories, shirts and work clothing are made and they have been very popular as souvenirs of Kochi.

   However, factories that specialized in Tosa Tsumugi productions have been closing due to the dye’s declining supplies. Thus the remaining stock of Tosa Tsumugi goods have become quite rare items nowadays.

   Because of the overlapping warp and woof woven into clothing made from Tosa Tsumugi, it is very durable and requires no ironing. Cotton has high absorbance and so it allows us to keep cool in summer, and in winter it feels soft and keeps us warm.

Taken from vol.36 PDF

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