Echizen paper in Fukui Prefecture has a history of about 1500 years and is famous as the highest quality Japanese paper.
The people of Paper Village in Echizen area have inherited the traditional papermaking technique that taught by the Paper Goddess Kawakami Gozen for generations while being watched over by Okata Shrine and Otaki Shrine, which enshrine Kawakami Gozen.
The Echizen Japanese paper used in Sakura-bito’s “Great Fortune Bill Wallet” was prayed at Okamoto Shrine and Otaki Shrine.
We will tell you the story of the shrine that has watched over the history of Echizen Japanese paper.
Enshrines the Paper Goddes "Kawakami-Gozen"
――We heard that Okamoto Shrine has more than 1500 years’ history, enshrines the Goddes of paper.
It is said that the shrines of Kawakami Gozen, the Goddess of paper, was founded about 1500 years ago. Because this is a paper-making village, we enshrine the Goddess who taught us the technique of paper-making.
There is a tale about the beginning of Echizen paper that was taught by Kawakami Gozen.
One day, a beautiful woman came down to this village from the upstream of the river and said, “This village has few fields and you will be difficult to live. But it is blessed with clean water, so I will teach you the technnique of making paper. It would be helpful for you to make a living”. Then she hung the kimono she was wearing on a twig beside the murmuring of the river and told the villagers the technique of making paper.
The villagers were very grateful and said, “Who are you?”, she answered, “I live near the upstream of the river,” and disappeared to the top of the mountain again. So the villagers called the Goddes who lives in the upper part of the river the name “Kawakami Gozen” and was enshrined at Okamoto shrine. She is the Goddess of the paper industry.
――Echizen paper has a very old history, how did it become popular?
At that time, 1,500 years ago, paper was extremely valuable tools for recording .
There is an old record that Echizen paper was used for record in Shosoin, and the Japanese imperial courts and samurai have used for long.
It was during the age of Samurai war that the paper inductry prospered the most. In the era of Nobunaga Oda, the demand for it as official document paper has become very high, and there is a record that Mitsuhide Akechi who was the vassal of Nobunaga also sent this paper to Nobunaga’s wife.
The technique of Echizen Japanese paper that survived the Samurai war age
――Were Echizen paper craftsmen influenced by the war of Samurai age?
The Shrines had enshrined the Goddes of paper, and other Hakusan Gods for long, so had enormous religeous power in the area of Hakusan.
However the shrine was very close to Asakura family, who was the enemy of Nobunaga Oda, so was burned down in the third year of the Tensho era.
It is said that there were about 50 buildings above and below the mountain, and it is said that there were about 700 monk. All of them were destroyed and killed.
But Nobunaga was so smart that he didn’t hurt the people of the paper village. The technique of making paper can be revived as well as there are craftsmen.
――The technique of Echizen paper was protected even during the war.
Immediately after the war between Oda and Asakura, Sassa Narimasa, who was one of the three influential Fuchu Samurais, and the lord who opened Kaga came here, and gave the relief letter of Echizen paper; the exclusive manufacturing right and sales right.
After that, in the era of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Tokugawa family, these shrine had been protected by the government. The paper village had been protected by both the Edo Shogunate and the lord of Fukui, continually provided the paper. So the papers in that era have the shrine’s crest also has the Edo crest.
――After the Edo age, how did the condition of the Echizen paper change?
Until the Meiji era, the system of protection by the Shogunate and the Kaga domain continued, but in the Meiji era, there was a major shift from samurai politics to the Shinto of the emperor politics.
These shrines were the Shugendo training place called Otaki Chigo Gongen until the Edo era, but it was renamed Otaki Shrine and Otaki Shrine.
The deep relationship between the paper craftsmen and the Echizen paper, and the bill paper
――Okamoto Shrine and Otaki Shrine have the deep relationship with the paper crafts and the bill paper, don’t they?
For paper craftsmen, it is the center of the Goddess of paper industry that makes their lives, and it is also highly revered as the ancestor of Japanese banknotes (bills).
In fact, the Echizen paper used to be the first bill paper in Japan ;called the Dajokan-satsu.
After that, the technology of Echizen paper craft has been used for the technology such as the watermarks in the current banknotes.
Therefore, the spirit of this godess is enshrined at the Mint of Odawara area and Oji area in Tokyo.
In that sense, everyone is deeply revered from all over the country because it is inseparable from “paper” and “banknotes”.
The great ability of Echizen paper craftsmen is that they can create both practical durability and high artistry in one factory.
――What do you think the attractive point of Echizen paper craft is?
I think that they can make various things, from very practical ones like official document paper to highly artistic ones in one factory.
Of course, there are many paper craft industries in Japan that are said to be the production center of Japanese traditional paper, but I think that the most attractive point of Echizen paper is that it has the technology and ability to make various things.
――What is the strong point of Japanese paper?
It is said that Japanese paper can withstand for a thousand years. The biggest difference from Western paper is the material. Western paper is made of the fibers of the inside part of the wood, but Japanese paper is made of the surface of wood; the skin part. Therefore, the fiber is so long that withstand long-term storage. It may seem surprising to everyone, but Japanese paper cannot be easily torn. Kimono made from Kamiko paper has been used in various places for a long time. It’s very durable. Also, threads and ropes made from Japanese paper have been used in various places.
――Does the connection between money luck and this shrine also come from the characterstic of Echizen paper?
The relationship between banknotes and Echizen Japanese paper are inseparable, and the paper itself is difficult to be torn, so this Japanese paper wallet would be the amulet for your fortune. There are many people who want to keep Echizen paper as a lucky charm of good fortune.
There is also Kinbo Shrine as one of the Okamoto and Otaki shrines here. Kinbo in Japanese means “saving the money” so I think it is a lucky name.
I hope that the paper we prayed for today would bring you good fortune. By wrapping the banknotes in this Echizen Japanese paper you will get the strong relationship with money, good fortune.
Good fortune with the blessing of Goddess of the paper
――Can you give a message to customers who use this wallet?
You may well get good fortune not only by putting your bills in your wallet, but by placing it on your chest of drawers or in a higher place as possible. It would be very grateful if you could decorate it once a week or even once a month, and I hope you pray that you will not run out of money.
I pray for the peaceful life and good fortune with this wallet.
Okamoto Shrine and Otaki Shrine Web page of the Echizen City travel info
Okamoto Shrine and Otaki Shrine
The shrines consisting of Oku-no-in buildings at the top of the mountain and Satomiya buildings at the foot of the mountain. Oku-no-in has the old recprd listed in the “Enki-shiki Shinmeicho”; the record book of shrines in 926, and is the only paper goddes in Japan, Kawakami Gozen is enshrined. The main shrine and worship hall of the Satomiya were built by collecting the best techniques of the shrine architecture of the late Edo era, and its complex roofs similar to multiple waves are worth seeing. In 1984, it was designated as a national important cultural property because of its historical worth and the beauty of architecture.