Echizen-papercraft in Fukui area has over 1500 years history, and is known as the best quality traditional papercraft in Japan. According to the folk tale in Echizen,The Paper Goddess “Kawakami-Gozen” initiated people in this area into the techniques of Japanese traditional papercraft using water. The Echizen-paper craftsmen enshrined “Kawakami-Gozen” in Okamoto Shrine and Otaki Shrine, and succeeded the papercraft technique for generations.
Yanase-Washi Co., Ltd. that makes the special Echizen papercraft for the first product of Sakura-bito “Great Fortune Bill Wallet”, not only makes traditional Japanese paper wall, but also tries to make solid items in the collaboration with trend designer or animation studio.
We interviewed Mr.Haruo Yanase who is the owner of Yanase-Washi Co., Ltd., asked about his history as a Traditional Craftsman, and about his passion for Echizen paper.
Live with the papercraft, live for the papercraft
――Yanase-Washi Co., Ltd. started as the Paper wall factory, didn’t it?
I heard that our company built this paper factory and started to make Japanese paper wall Fusuma-paper in 1950s. Before then our company had been making the thick Japanese paper.
My uncle started to make Fusuma-paper in anticipation of the demand of housing after War. After that he built another machinery paper factory, so he left the first factory to his brother; my father.
So,I’m the second generation of the company.
――When you’re a child could you imagine that you would work for this factory?
I often came into the factory from my childhood. During summer vacation, my family told me to help making paper or pouring color water on the paper mold. Sometimes I did mischief, and was scolded…
――What motivated you to be the Echizen-paper craftsman?
After graduation from college, I began to work for this factory, so it’s been over 42 years’ career.
Our factory has been making Echizen paper by hand, I’ve been learning it for long, and got the Japanese Traditional Craftsman License.
As a qualified craftsman, I braced myself for this work, so the qualifying examination was a good opportunity for me.
With the change of the times
――Comparing the circumstances of your early career with the one of nowadays, what kind of changes do you feel?
In the old days, holidays were also work. We sold one after another papers, and I believed that the business condition would be better and better.
However, the oil crisis caused the sudden bad condition and the number of orders began decreasing.
Since then, the major structure of Japanese housing has gradually changed from Japanese-style to Western-style. The demand of traditional Japanese paper is declining, so I don’t think it’s very good these days.
――As existing needs has changed, has the way you make paper changed?
Of course, these days the demand of wall paper is decreasing, the order style also has changed. In the past, almost all orders are by lot unit, and once you received an order, you could make 200 pieces, at least 100 pieces. This style is gradually disappearing.
For example, the order of “squeeze paper”; it means only our customer want 5 small lots, or in an extreme case, he/she want only 1 piece of the irregular size. We have to handle both style.
Speaking about the case of wall paper, in the old days there was a route from the wholesaler to the secondary wholesaler, and finally to the tableware shop. Recently, we make the final product at my own place as much as possible, reduce the number of intermediaries, and send it to the customer by one select shop.
Then, the customer’s reaction is easy to feed back to us, we even are able to improve the quality for the next time with that as a hint.
Challenge to collaborate with designers and animation studios
――We heard that your miscellaneous goods made in collaboration with designers are popular.
The Japanese paper box, which looks like a stone called “Kopple,” has been evaluated in various places, and it seems that foreigners are quite pleased with it, I’m glad to hear that.
――What was your first impression of the idea of creating a three-dimensional object by your Japanese paper?
Paper of course has the image of a flat surface, and even if it’s used as the three-dimensional item, it’s a little rugged one.But this item has to be smooth and smart one.
The customers can use it in various ways that we can’t think of, especially young people nowadays. We want to provide more and more new products to such places, receive various impressions, and improve our techniques.
I want to build up various things like that.
――You also worked on animation studio goods.
It’s a black cloth sticker of an animation character “Makkuro-Kurosuke” made of Japanese paper. When the demand for the paper wall began to decrease, I started to make something new.
The hint existed in the custom old people did. They put the thin paper on the glass windows to hide the inside of the room. It inspired me to make the paper sticker.
Then I brought several patterned paper stickers to the exhibision, the staff of Ghibli animation studio found them and asked me I could make original paper sticker of the character. After about half a year of trial and error, I made some prototypes, and finally it completerd. It is still on sale.
――Were there any difficulties unique to make the product that reproduce characters?
The character’s item is totally the new challenge for me. The animation studio has policy to save their creative, but Japanese paper is some fluffy material, so there is the difficulty to draw vivid outline.
Anyway, what Ghibli was particular about is “eyes”. I have to make these eyes clear. Kozo paper is sufficient for the fluffy parts around it. “Eyes” were the problem all the time.
Next;【Fukui:Echizen-papercraft】Interview to Mr. Haruo Yanase of Yanase-Washi Co., Ltd. Vol.02
Yanase Washi Co.,Ltd. Haruo Yanase
After Graduation from the Department of Textile Dyes, University of Fukui, joined Yanase Washi Co., Ltd. in 1978. He produced various paper products, from traditional Echizen Japanese paper products such as wall paper and letter paper as his family business, to three-dimensional products in collaboration with designers and original products in animation studios. Combining traditional techniques with new manufacturing methods, he continues to challenge the possibilities of Echizen paper craft.