Journeys in Japan
Dec. 30, Tue.
Echizen: The World of Washi
Heizaburo Iwano III
Japan has been the land of paper since ancient times.
The country developed a unique culture of using washi (lit. Japanese paper)
for diverse purposes. Echizen washi, traditionally produced in Echizen City,
Fukui Prefecture, has especially been chosen for imperial ceremonies and
for securities, diplomas, certificates and other important documents.
The Goka district of Echizen is home to papermakers renowned for
its high-quality handmade washi. The area is the only place in Japan
where a deity of paper is worshipped. David Wells, a chef of Japanese cuisine,
visits the district where washi is very much a part of people's lives,
and discovers a deep world.
Echizen Washi no Sato (Echizen Washi Village)
A neighborhood called "Echizen Washi no Sato", in Echizen's Imadate district,
reflects the appeal of the area as a production center of refined handmade paper.
The Paper & Culture Museum there houses a large collection of materials associated
with Echizen washi, while Papyrus House offers papermaking workshops.
The museum displays a wide range of precious items, including ancient paper
and documents, informing visitors about Echizen washi roots and its history.
Address: 11-12 Shinzaike-cho, Echizen City, Fukui Pref.
Tel: (+81) 778-42-0016 (in Japanese only)
The Japanese restaurant offers kaiseki cuisine celebrating local, seasonal
ingredients. Dishes are beautifully presented in locally crafted earthenware,
washi paper and lacquer ware. Advanced reservation required.
Address: 3-1-3 Kyo-machi, Echizen City, Fukui Pref.
Tel: (+81) 778-21-0080 (in Japanese only)
www.mantani.jp/ (in Japanese only)
The shrine is dedicated to Kawakami Gozen, a goddess believed to have
demonstrated how to make paper to the local people about 1,500 years ago.
Echizen is the only place in Japan where such a deity of paper is worshipped.
The shrine was rebuilt using the top techniques for shrine construction in
the mid-19th century, and was designated an important cultural property by
the government in 1984.
Address: 23-10 Otaki-cho, Echizen City, Fukui Pref.
http://www.washi.jp/history/index.html (in Japanese only)
To reach Goka from Tokyo, take a Shinkansen bullet train to Maibara and change
to the Hokuriku Line to Takefu. From there, take a bus to the Washi no Sato stop.
It takes about 3.5 hours.
Travel Log - Traveler:
It was a quiet and out of the way area that had so much warmth and riches in and
around it that I had to pinch myself from time to time to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
I mean, what would you say if someone told you that, over a thousand years ago
a goddess came down the river and taught everyone here how to make paper.
She made her mark on history and Echizen paper has make its mark on me.
Now it's your turn.