Edo Karakami Washi Paper

Edo Karakami is a type of decorated paper used in interiors, made by Japanese artisans. The many variations were created during the Edo period (1603 – around 1868) in the city of Edo (now Tokyo), when it became the new capital of Japan.

The origin of the decorations dates back to the Heian era  (749 – around 1192) in the city of Kyoto, which was run by court nobles who used these decorated papers for writing poetry.

Edo flourished during the 265 rule of the Tokugawa family shogunate. Many artisans from Kyoto moved to the city and cultivated their techniques there, and it became an important period in the developing artistic culture of Japan

The population increase made construction a necessity, and many decorative papers were made as interior materials for building. Edo Karakami was used in many important places such as temples, castles, and palaces, as well as in the houses of merchants.  The techniques and designs to decorate Fusuma sliding doors were developed at this time.

Washi paper is traditionally produced using Japanese vegetable fibres such as Gampi, Mitsumata, and Kozo. These have a very strong resilience and consistency and smooth surface. The oldest existing Washi is a handmade paper dating from 770AD.

The Colorant and materials for the decoration are made from natural materials, also used in Japanese traditional paintings. One of the is Kira, mica in English, which has a very beautiful brightness. Kira reflects in many gentle ways, depending o the light.

Tokyo Matsuya was founded in 1690 by Ihei Matsuya as a dealer in kusazoshi woodblock printed lieterature and other forms of publishing. Subsequently at the end of the Edo era and into the Meiji period the business began to specialize in paper products for home such as shoji partitions, materials for hanging scrolls, and in various types of hardware of the day. The market for this special paper and prints collapsed durning WW2 and Matsuya abandoned the trade. In 1992 Rihe Ban decided to revive this area of work. Working with craftsmen who maintain the difficult skills needed to print Edo Karakami.

Founded in 1690, the showroom at Higashi Ueno in Tokyo remains in its original location. It features many interior products for Japanese houses, around 350 types of Edo karakami, woodblock prints including some from the Edo period, and a variety of made-to-order handmade Washi. 

Adapting to modern times they now offer picture folders and name card holders that open two ways and are made in the tradition of screen separations. 

These are available at our store and online.

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