Ohama Paper: Made for Art
Among the countries of the world, Japan produces among the widest varieties of paper. An astounding number of types of paper are used for printed matter, books, and so forth, as well as everyday applications such as newspaper, toilet paper, and tissues. When we include specialized industrial papers used in places invisible to the eye, such as for electronic components, the number of varieties of paper made in Japan is truly staggering.
One variety that is particularly notable among these, even on a worldwide scale, is handmade paper, of which there are several kinds that have well over a thousand years of history. Up until about a century ago, there were over 20,000 paper producers nationwide, and although today their numbers have dwindled considerably, distinctive papers are still being made in every region of Japan.
Ohama paper is a type of handmade paper with links to a centuries-old tradition, and is especially outstanding as a surface for drawing and painting. It is made with highly exacting techniques developed over more than a millennium, using a mixture of the white parts of the inner bark of one-year branches of kozo (also known as paper mulberry) plants and the white parts of the inner bark of ganpi plants around five years of age. It satisfies the two essential requirements for art papers: excellent color properties when ink or pigment are applied, and strong resistance to age-related degradation.
In Japan, there is much paper that remains in excellent condition even after a thousand years, and can serve today as a model for production of outstanding and enduring paper. The most important aspect of papermaking is the processing of materials, and for Ohama paper, this is carried out entirely by human hands based on technical information obtained through research into historic papers. Although this production method is extremely inefficient in terms of quantity, it is the only way to achieve the desired level of performance. The fruits of the labor-intensive process are clearly evident, and the outcome of forced deterioration tests recently conducted in the field of art conservation research show that Ohama paper stands out among currently commercially available art papers for its extraordinary stability over the long term. Its impeccable reliability is evident from the fact that a major art exhibition is held each year featuring only works executed on Ohama paper.
Ohama Paper Special Edition
In the field of handmade paper, there is one papermaker who consistently produces paper of unparalleled quality: Iwano Ichibei, whose skill is recognized as a national treasure of Japan (a nationally designated Important Intangible Cultural Property). The Iwano family are traditional papermakers who have consistently produced only Hosho paper, a special premium-quality paper that during the Edo Period (1603-1868) could only be used by high-ranking