Traditional Crafts of TokyoTraditional Crafts of Tokyo 東京の伝統工芸品

Edo Karakami

(Hand-Made Patterned Paper for Interiors)

Edo Karakami Photo

Living changes. But a sense of beauty is inherited.
Edo Karakami (hand-made patterned paper for interiors) was developed as a decoration for Fusuma (sliding door), dividers in a Japanese house. It started from adding decorations to the paper used for Buddhist Scripture and Waka poetry, and those skills were polished through a long history. Nowadays, the application has been widened to Fusuma and wall paper, as well as tapestries. To express various patterns of many types on Washi (Japanese paper), its production involves several craftsmen having special skills. Edo Karakami has been produced in competition with Karakami-shi who prints the engraved patterns on a woodcut to Washi in a manual wood-block printing method, Sunago-shi who adds the decoration made of the powdered gold, silver and other foil, and Sarasa-shi who applies the stencil dyeing method for woven fabrics to print patterns. The patterns, reflecting townsmen’s culture, feature generosity and dynamism, and its traditional motifs of flowers and waves are made into universal and sophisticated designs. Edo’s sense of beauty merges into the modern spaces and Washi’s warm quality brings calm. Many people love the houses in Tokyo, with Edo Karakami on Fusuma, and Edo Karakami is also widely used in hotels, etc. In addition, craftsmen are producing new products, including envelopes and stationaries, in order towidespread the attractiveness of Edo Karakami for interiors.
Main Areas of Manufacture Edogawa Ward, Nerima Ward, Bunkyo Ward
Designation/ Certification Date August 20th, 1992 (Tokyo Certification)
May 13th, 1999 (National Certification)
Traditionally Used Raw Materials Washi (traditional Japanese paper), textiles, mica, gofun (crushed seashells), pigments, dosa (sizing glaze), nikawasui paste (glue), gold flakes, adhesives (funori seaweed glue, shofunori wheat starch paste and konnyaku glue)

Traditional Technologies and Techniques
There are three techniques used by the karakami craftsman:

  1. Hikizome (brush dyeing):
    Iro-gubiki (undercoat application):
    A brush that has been soaked in pigment is drawn across the paper.
    Bokashizome (shade dyeing):
    A single brush that includes color which has been gradated by water is  drawn across the paper to create a shading effect.
    Chojihiki (striped-pattern dyeing):
    A brush with bristles intermittently removed to achieve a comb-like effect is used to create choji (stripe) patterns on the surface of the paper.
  2. Application of mica (kirabiki) through hand-rubbing:
    Although mica is sometimes applied simply when rubbed in by hand, in most cases pigment or gold/silver paint is applied in two layers. Following rubbing in by hand, the paper is stretched out and dosa (a protective "sizing" glaze) is applied to the surface.
  3. Mica pattern application using a woodblock:
    Mica and gofun (crushed seashells) are passed through a screen membrane onto a pattern-carved woodblock, and paper is then placed over the woodblock and rubbed gently. Gold/silver flakes are then sprinkled over the paper that has had paste applied to it, and after drying, the excess flakes are removed and a dosa glaze is applied to the surface of the paper.

Traditional Technologies and Techniques
There are five techniques used by the craftsman who applies decorative powders:

  1. Haku-chirashi (flake sprinkling):
    A special tube-shaped tool used for sprinkling flakes (a tube made of bamboo with strings stretched over the end), and a tool similar to chopsticks called hakuhashi are skillfully utilized to sprinkle gold /silver flakes over the surface of the paper.
  2. Sunago-maki (sunago powder sprinkling):
    Flakes reduced to a fine powder are inserted into a special tube-shaped tool (a tube made of bamboo with a fine mesh of copper wires over the end). The powder is repeatedly sprinkled over the surface by shaking the tube.
  3. Deibiki (paint application):
    Gold/Silver paint is applied to one end of a brush, and then the brush is drawn across the paper lengthwise along a ruler with one side of the brush elevated.
  4. Migakidashi (pattern rubbing):
    A pre-patterned woodblock is placed below washi (traditional Japanese paper) that has undergone the deibiki process. The painted portions of the paper are then rubbed from above using a boar's tusk. This causes the painted portions to physically rise up.
  5. Picture painting/drawing:
    A traditional nihonga (Japanese painting) or sumi-e (ink painting) is added for decorative effect.

Traditional Technologies and Techniques
There are two techniques used by the craftsman who does cotton printing (calico printing):
Print-type textile dyeing:

  1. Monochrome printing:
    Pattern paper treated with astringent persimmon juice is placed on top of washi (traditional Japanese paper) and pigment and/or dye is used to print designs.
  2. Multicolor printing:
    A number of sheets of pattern paper treated with astringent persimmon juice (5 to 7 sheets) are used to print colors one at a time until the intended design is complete.

History and Characteristics

Edo Karakami is patterned traditional Japanese paper that is affixed to fusuma sliding doors and folding screens, etc., for decorative purposes. Woodblock printing using pre-patterned blocks, Ise-Katagami stencil printing, hikizome brush dyeing, hand-sprinkling of sunago decorative powders, and a wide range of other techniques are employed when making Edo Karakami.

Karakami patterned paper was introduced from China to Japan during the Heian Period (approx. 794-1185) and Japanese craftsmen subsequently imitated Chinese karakami using washi (traditional Japanese paper) as a base. Karakami was mainly produced early on in Kyoto as paper for writing waka (classical Japanese poetry).

During Japan's medieval period, people began to use karakami for decorating fusuma, hanging scrolls and the like, and during the Edo Period (1603-1868) many karakami craftsmen in Edo began to make products that could be used in such decorative roles.

In contrast to Kyo Karakami (Kyoto-style karakami), which focuses almost exclusively on woodblock printing, Edo Karakami is unique in its use of woodblock printing as a base along with print-type textile dyeing using patterned paper, brushwork and a variety of other techniques.

Many Edo Karakami works in the past were free-spirited and stylish, reflecting the tastes of the samurai classes and townspeople. Although some works were damaged by war or fire, craftsmen restored them on each occasion. Thus, Edo Karakami continues to provide both color and a sense of repose in people's lives even today.

Contact Details

Manufacturing Area Cooperative Name Edo Karakami Cooperative Association
Address Tokyo Matsuya Showroom, 6-1-3 Higashi-ueno, Taito Ward, 110-0015
TEL 03-3842-3785