Japan Trip – Part 3 – The Paper!

Japan Trip – Part 3 – The Paper!

This is part three in a three-part series on my trip to Japan. You can read Part 1 here. And Part 2 here.
Here’s a short recap about the trip:
My husband Ted and I took a two-week trip to Japan in late November/early December 2019. The main reason was to visit our son, a junior in college at DePaul University in Chicago, who is doing a semester abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka.
I waited 30 years for this adventure, and it was definitely worth the wait! I was living in NYC back then, working odd jobs and trying to find something I was passionate about. My father was in Japan for the summer, and my mother took me with her on a short vacation to see him and tour around a bit. I already had an interest in paper, but that trip was a turning point: we stayed in a traditional inn in Kyoto (a ryokan) and being surrounded by light filtering through shoji screens sparked a new interest in paper and light.


Back in the studio, I finally found a bit of time to go through the papers I purchased in Japan. I have to admit that overwhelm set in quickly while traveling, so I didn’t do as much shopping as you might think! I’ll have to go back, and thankfully there are several paper suppliers here in the states, who carry Japanese papers. Hiromi Paper, Miki’s Papers/Paper Tree, Mulberry Papers & More, Paper Connection International, and Washi Arts, to name a few.
I don’t speak or read Japanese at all, so I don’t know that much about these papers (fiber content, printing methods, etc).
Below you see the sheets made by makers I met. From left to right: two heavier weight sheets of Japanese kozo paper created in Yamaguchi Shohachi’s studio; two thin whispy sheets of mitsumata paper created by Chie Honma; a gorgeous lace paper that I purchased at Ozu Washi in Tokyo (I asked where it was made, but didn’t write it down, darn); two lace papers from the studio Ryoso Yanase, and some swatches of kozo paper made by living national treasure Ichibei Iwano, the bottom right corner swatches are painted with kakishibu (persimmon tannin). I purchased a bottle of that to play around with, too.

This is a selection of inexpensive machine-made kraft papers in some fun patterns that I got at Itoya in Tokyo.

I like polka dots and got one in each color.

Chiyogami comes in hundreds of designs, making it really hard to choose! I picked a few that I wasn’t familiar with.

This is a machine-made paper I purchased at Ozu Washi in Tokyo. The circles look like they are watermarked.

I picked up a selection of these screen printed papers at Morita Washi in Kyoto. They had shelves and shelves of papers in lots of sizes and patterns.

I love kyoseishi papers, which are crumpled. I found some of these in paper stores and others in stationery or calligraphy shops.

These oversized sheets measure close to 30″ x 40″.

It’s hard to see in this photo, but these papers each have unusual textures or surfaces.

The color variety in these inexpensive ‘farmers papers’ was astounding. I purchased only about 1/3 of the colors they had in stock. These were inexpensive, and I’m pretty sure they are handmade.

Ozu Washi had probably 30 drawers of these itajame dyed papers.

I stopped in several Daiso shops (dollar stores) because they carry origami paper and I found different types in each shop. Here’s my haul.

I’m a paper wallet/pouch/bag junkie, and I picked up a few of these in Japan. The burgundy one is made by Siwa, a company that produces all sorts of paper “bags”. Click through to see more of their products. Fun fact: the name, Siwa is both a reversing of the characters in the word washi (wasi), and a word meaning crinkle in Japanese.

This wallet was in a paper shop along the Philosopher’s Road in Kyoto. It is lined with fabric, and has an unusual closure (a plastic piece that sides underneath a string.

This is a business card holder made at Osada Kazuya in Echizen.

I hope you enjoyed my adventure in Japan. Guess what? I am seriously considering bringing a group to Japan in 2021 or 2022. I think I’ve found a partner on the ground there who speaks Japanese. Please leave a comment if you think you might be interested (please include your e-mail address, because it won’t show up with your comment). I am envisioning a trip that would combine visiting paper places and creating Japanese-inspired paper objects. In the meantime, I hope to attend the IAPMA Congress in Japan next fall.
And I know you see this every week on my blog, and you probably don’t even look at it anymore, but these posts about Japan took me over 10 hours to compile (without compensation). I am by no means complaining – I feel so lucky to have found a true passion – and I do so love and enjoy what I do! But here’s a fact: my hubby (the writer and editor) gets $1-$2 per word when he writes a magazine article.

So on that note, if you read this blog and enjoy it, would you consider making a donation to support the research, writing, design and delivery of The Sunday Paper? Click on the paper button at the left to learn how. Or, perhaps you’re interested in promoting your business in The Sunday Paper.
Thanks to everyone who has already pledged your support!

And feel free to SHARE THIS blog post with your paper- and Japan-loving friends!


  1. Marci Muench says:

    Thank you for sharing so many details of your Japan trip and sharing the names of stores that sell handmade papers. I plan to be in Japan this fall so I will visit them.
    I hope the next time you go to Japan that you will consider a day trip to Ogawa-machi, a thousand-year-old town north of Tokyo in Saitama-ken. I have been enchanted (and going broke) there three times since 1998. You can see where people made a little wicker shelter to sit near a stream and prepare the fibers for paper making, some old homes and equipment,and newer paper making. I haven’t visited all the stores and craft centers, but it is a very memorable place in the mountains if you love paper.

    • Helen says:

      Hi Marci, and thanks for mentioning Ogawa-machi. I’ve heard of it several times, and must try to get there!

  2. Judy Tobie says:

    Just, WOW, wonderful!

  3. Leslie says:

    I would love to be updated on any future group trips to Japan that you may organize. Thank you.

  4. Sharon Cohen says:

    Please include me on info for a paper trip to Japan.
    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  5. Lorrie Lane says:

    I would love to keep in touch with you re: a trip to Japan. I’ve taken classes on making paper in the Japanese style at Women’s Studio Workshop and will be back there this summer to take a course on Korean Paper with Aimee Lee. Bville05@aol.com

  6. Deborah J Kogan says:

    Thanks Helen! I’d be interested in more information about a group trip to Japan in the future. It might be fun to also explore the informal or formal paper folding traditions–along the lines of “how to wrap five eggs”.

  7. Doris says:

    Sounds interesting – dorism6220@aol.com

  8. Gina Pisello says:

    You know I am interested in a trip to Japan with you!

  9. […] Japan Trip – Part 3 – The Paper! […]

  10. Nancy M Pike says:

    Hi Helen, I would be interested in your trip to Japan. Thanks for telling us about your trip and providing the great photos!

  11. I enjoyed yur three part Japan trip. It sounded very exciting.

  12. Diane Eicher says:

    I will love to see what you do with these papers – they’re gorgeous! My problem would be that I would want to “save” them for something just perfect … which is why I have a roomful (or more) of lovely papers I just enjoy looking at, that are all waiting for their worthy project!

  13. Margaret says:

    Please send me details of the trip to Japan as they are available. The timing will determine whether I can go, but I will share the information with the mailing list for the calligraphers’ guild as well.

  14. Laura Nissen says:

    Please include me! I’m intersted! nissen@pdx.edu