Kurotani Washi hand-made paper is known to hold eight hundred years of history. It is believed that fugitives of the Taira family (Heike), who hid in Kurotani village after escaping from pursuers from the capital, started to produce it as a livelihood for future generations. Since Kurotani, which is located between the north of Ayabe City and Maizuru City in Kyoto, is endowed with Kozo (paper mulberry) and beautiful water, paper making here has been extremely active ever since. In the Edo period, ’Tato paper (for storing clothes)’ or ‘price tag paper’ for Kyoto drapers were often produced. In the Meiji period, ‘Mayu bags’, which were used for the sericultural industry, were often produced, and even a Kurotani Washi Cooperative Association was established. When Western paper became mainstream during 1955-1964, the third decade of the Showa period, the demand for Washi paper declined. However, the Kurotani area has been protecting the traditional paper making technique, and keeping its global presence as a renowned hand-made paper-making location, until today.
Wataru Hatano, a Washi craftsman who works widely from growing the seedlings of Kozo to paper making, processing, and design, first encountered Kurotani Washi when he was making oil paintings after graduating from art university and looking for ‘the strongest paper in Japan’ as a material. After that, he moved to Ayabe City, and only focused on making papers for the first decade. Whilst carefully making papers, using only naturally-sourced materials across the whole process from preparing Kozo to bashing paper fibre, making paper, and hanging paper, he realised that he would like to tell widely how wonderful Kurotani Washi is, and shifted to craftwork making. To highlight the strength and beauty of Kurotani Washi, which has historically supported people’s everyday lives and house making in Japan, he renovated the wall, ceiling, floor and even table of his own house with Washi paper. At work too, he has been making a number of spaces through the process of making paper, design, and construction work. While having a permanent base in Kurotani, which is surrounded by beautiful idyllic scenery, he has been busy traveling around the country and trying to promote Kurotani Washi to a wider audience.
ハタノワタル Wataru Hatano