Japanese Technology Feature
[My 2020] Making the best quality washi diploma for athletes: Takehisa Suzuki, age 70
■President of the Mino Handmade Paper Cooperative
The diplomas which will be given out to athletes who place in eighth place or above at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will use handmade washi (Japanese paper) made in Mino. It is an honor that the traditional techniques passed down in Mino City, Gifu Prefecture, have been recognized like this, and I feel a sense of responsibility.
Mino washi is said to have a history of 1300 years, with the highest quality type known as Hon-Mino shi. For these diplomas, the same ingredients will be used as those used for Hon-Mino shi. Using Daigo Nasu Kozo (paper mulberry tree) grown in Daigo Town, Ibaraki Prefecture, I plan to use the best ingredient to make the best product.
After rinsing the base ingredient in river water, it is boiled in an alkaline solution and the impurities removed. The fibers are separated by beating with a wooden mallet or other tools, and the resulting pulp is placed in a vat of water, after which a suketa (screen) is moved around to sieve out the pulp. A unique characteristic of Mino washi is that in addition to moving the screen back and forth, it is also moved left to right. This leads to paper that is thin, but durable. Bleach and other chemicals are not used, so it maintains its natural color. I would be grateful if the foreign athletes learn to appreciate washi as well.
Although I cannot publicly release the design yet, the diplomas will use two sheets, with part of the design being translucent. They will be A3 size, and we will prepare 17,600 of them. The 17 members of the Cooperative and their families are working in shifts to carry out the work. We started in earnest in July, and the work should take until March next year. Although it is a tight schedule, I plan to show the strength of Mino.
With the change in lifestyles and appearance of machine-made washi, the number of workshops making handmade washi has decreased. However, there are also young people who have come from outside the prefecture to learn the skills to make washi. The environment surrounding washi is in a transition period right now, but this job might be an opportunity for change. The world of washi may expand, and shift to a new direction. I hope this will lead to a positive direction.
◇Takehisa Suzuki: Born in 1949, in Gifu Prefecture. After graduating from high school, he became an office worker instead of taking over his family’s paper workshop. After retiring at 60, he learned from his wife Toyomi, who had acquired the skills by helping with her family business already, and became a papermaker. He has been President of the Mino Handmade Paper Cooperative since 2016.
The original Japanese article was carried on THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN on July 26, 2019. Foreign Press Center Japan is responsible for the English translation. This article may not be distributed, reproduced, or publicly released without the permission of its copyright holders.
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