Washi paper added to list of UNESCO intangible heritage items


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday decided to include traditional Japanese handmade paper ("washi") to its list of intangible cultural heritage items.

The decision was made during the 9th session of the intangible cultural heritage committee in Paris.

"Washi" is practised in three communities in Japan. The paper is made from fibers of the paper mulberry and used for letter writing and books, but also to make paper screens, room dividers and sliding doors. Families and their employees work under masters who have inherited the techniques from their parents. The communities play roles in keeping this craftsmanship viable, ranging from the cultivation of mulberry, training in the techniques and the creation of new washi products.

A UNESCO representative said: "Handmade 'washi' paper has not only helped promote the continued cultivation of mulberry treas throughout Japan, but it has also ensured the longevity of traditional artistic techniques and cultural knowledge, allowing for an inter-connectivity between regional communities for generations."

The varieties of "washi" paper admitted to the list were Sekishuban paper from Shimane Prefecture, Honmino paper from Gifu Prefecture and Hokosawa paper from Saitama Prefecture.

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Surely washi is very much and very literally tangible.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese currency, I have heard, is made of washi.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Made from the bark of a mulberry tree, the paper is strong even when its wet, making it ideal for crafts. Japanese currency is made from raw materials used in washi and the mitsumata shrub.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This endlessly world heritage list is getting ridiculous... like Chinese water torture. Why not just call all of Japan a world heritage item and get done with it?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

This endlessly world heritage list is getting ridiculous... like Chinese water torture. Why not just call all of Japan a world heritage item and get done with it?

Then you would take away the media's chance to reinforce the image that Japanese are special.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Can you make brown envelopes from washi?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I applaud the fact that washi is now on the list.

2 ( +5 / -3 )


No "hate" on my side. I find these endless drives to add this that, and that over there too to that endlessly growing list as annoying in other countries as in Japan. In case you missed it, this article was about washi paper and Japan though.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@ theeastisred at Nov. 27, 2014 - 03:38PM JST Surely washi is very much and very literally tangible.

My take on this is that it is not any particular sheet/s of paper (which would be tangible) but rather the technique/culture/history which have been designated a heritage.

Having been a big fan and user of washi for nearly 60 years, I'm thrilled with this news and hopes it leads to more young people taking an interest in making washi and ensuring the survival of this wonderful craft and all those that depend on the use of washi as well.

As for the comments from those who seem to have (daily and permantly?) gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, it sometimes is amazing the lengths some people will go to find any and every excuse to criticize the Japanese people.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Wonderful. It's truly beautiful,

As for Japanese food getting on the list, it's about the most boring food on the planet and it comes at the huge expense of destroying the world's oceans. I couldn't believe it when it made it.

Now, Japan's arts and crafts is an entirely different matter.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

All my respect to washi paper. This is a great thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


You obviously don't know much about Japanese food.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A long long time ago. school text books were printed on washi papers. Stronger? Not easy to tear. Shojis and Chochin use washi papers. Once in a year, Washi people visited their customer families, change all washis on all shojis. Children were prohibited to write anything on shojis. Chochins were used as portbale lamps. Then there were uchiwas for summer. They have thick washis flat.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's very important for humanity that this classic technology is preserved as well as other handicrafts.

If for whatever reason modern technology fails, what happens? Those who live the life of "primitive" hunter/gatherers are the best equipped to survive. They already have the skills and ongoing experience. On the other hand, "we" are up a smelly creek.

Modern societies have by and large dropped existing technologies as something else shiny and new appears. Japan, to some extent, has retained a lot of it's classic technology, while adapting new. Look at smithing in Japan for example. Still going strong. How many practicing blacksmiths exist in your country? Will their knowledge be passed on when they retire?

If classic technology can be preserved, it would be the stepping stone humanity needs. In most cases, it uses naturally found materials and, as a bonus, is also environmentally friendly. Even the arts of making straw hats and sandals are important.

Sorry if I sound like a crackpot but preserving classic technology is very important for us and future generations, on a very practical level.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It's great. Washi may be registered it was really wonderful. I like washi because washi is very very beautiful. I think that washi it became a good chance for people all over the world to learn the goodness washi.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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