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"Awagami Factory" is a brand of Japanese washi papers produced solely in Tokushima, Japan. Awagami operates on 8 generations of family knowledge and skill focusing on quality and refinement within this world-heritage craft. Awagami papers are used by the worlds leading artists, photographers, designers, bookbinders and conservators and unlike other washi of unknown origin, guarantee their papers 100%.

Responding to the needs of artists and creators, Awagami strives to incorporate washi paper into contemporary society and is known as a modern-day facilitator of washi culture. Besides creating the worlds most trusted Japanese papers, Awagami also operates a paper museum, runs international papermaking workshops, maintains an ongoing artist-in-residency program and a multi-disciplinary printmaking lab. The mill also collaborates with artists on custom-made papers and has most recently created the Awagami International Miniprint Exhibition; a juried printmaking show (for works on any type of washi) with over $10,000 award in cash and prizes.

It is Awagami’s desire to promote the beauty of Japanese washi and to proudly pass washi culture on to the next generation….and then well on into the future.

About Us

 

History of Awa Washi

It is believed that the production of washi paper in Awa (Tokushima) began around 700 A.D for use by the privileged classes such as the aristocracy, priests and samurai. The production of washi flourished with the nationwide use of paper for religious texts, political records and literary works during the Heian period (latter half of the 7th century) and during the Edo period, papers such as 'Hosho' [奉書], 'Senkashi' [泉貸],'Takenaga' [丈長], 'Hishikishi' [七九紙] were used for currency and other official uses. However due to its expense washi's use was limited to the warrior or wealthy merchant families. Generally the mountainside farmers made washi as a tribute to the clan and to supplement their income during the farming off-seasons.

The production of washi paper flourished in Yamakawa-cho (home of Awagami and the Fuji Paper Mills Cooperative) because of the constant supply of fresh water from the Kawata River. Furthermore, the plants and materials used for papermaking also grew in abundance on nearby Mount Kotsu - "The Mount Fuji of Awa". Peaking during the Meiji Period, over 500 washi papermakers plied their craft in Tokushima and their close proximity to Osaka helped aid in the marketing and distribution of washi.

A turning point came during the Meiji Restoration (1870) when production began shifting from washi to Western paper. To meet the demand for more paper, machine-made paper was introduced dealing a heavy blow to the washi industry in Tokushima (even though the papers produced here had received acclaim at the 1878 Paris World Fair). Economic slumps following World War II eliminated much of the demand for locally-produced washi causing many papermakers to shut down production and presently, there are only 4 washi manufacturers in Tokushima producing traditional washi.

 

Papermakers in 1940's
Papermakers in 1940's. At Fuji Paper Mills Cooperative.

 

Awa Washi and Fujimori Family

The Fujimori family can trace its papermaking roots back to 1825, when records indicate Mohachi Fujimori began making washi as a side business. This most likely started as an off-farming season activity by previous generations as this tradition is usually handed down generationally.

The Meiji era brought an increased demand for paper and during this period, Chozo Fujimori established a small-scale papermaking factory in 1880. In 1917 along with other village papermakers, he formed a cooperative to market their papers in Osaka but the economic decline following WWI led to the coops closure. Chozo (w/ son, Hidekazu), however continued making paper on a reduced scale.

Seventh generation, Minoru Fujimori took over the family business in 1945 determined to continue the tradition of Awa washi despite difficult times post WWII. His hard work paid off and in 1970, Minoru-san was designated as an Intangible Cultural Property of Tokushima in recognition of his masterful papermaking skills.

As the demand for washi changed from utilitarian to decorative & craft uses, Minoru-san developed the first indigo-dyed washi using natural indigo. In response to the keen interest in indigo-dyed washi, production of other dyed papers started soon thereafter and in 1976, Awa washi was designated a ‘Traditional Craft Industry’ by the Tokushima Prefectural Government.

In 1984, Minoru Fujimori was honored as a Master Craftsman and awarded the medal for Technical Excellence in recognition of his efforts to preserve the art of making Awa washi. Later in 1986, Minoru-san would also be awarded with the 'Sixth Class Order of Merit, Sacred Treasure' by the Japanese government. Currently his son, Yoichi Fujimori and family proudly continue the families papermaking business & traditions.

Yoichi Fujimori with wife Mieko, conduct many international workshops in an effort to promote washi culture. Since 1983, they have established a weeklong summer workshop at the mill teaching Awa washi papermaking to visiting international artisans.

In efforts of expanding the market for Awa washi, The Fujimori family has steadily established a network of international distributing partners for Awagami-branded washi (which may now be found in over 30 countries). It is the families hope to continue making traditional Awa-washi through future generations and to preserve this most ancient and honorable Japanese craft.

Drying papers.
Drying papers.

Stripping Kozo bark.
Stripping Kozo bark.

 


Minoru Fujimori