kyo chiyogami omacha-zukushi (Paper)

About this object

History of use

Papermaking originated on the Asian mainland and spread to Japan by 1500 years ago. For centuries Japan has produced the greatest quantity and variety of handmade paper or washi in the world. Traditionally, papermaking was a family or community enterprise which thrived in mountain farming communities where cold, pure water and wild bast fibre shrubs, such as mulberry, are plentiful. Washi is an important cultural symbol and holds a place in nearly every aspect of Japanese life. It is also a significant aspect of both Shinto and Buddhist rites and customs. Chiyogami was traditionally used for writing paper, poetry paper or for lining incense boxes or for wrapping cosmetics. It is presently also used for Anesama dolls, toys, artificial flowers, and greeting cards. Although formerly an expensive luxury item used only by high-ranking individuals, chiyogami later became less expensive and a popular gift for young women in general. This print represents December in the maker's 'Twelve Months of Kyoto in Chiyogami Pattern' series. It shows a collection of kabuki stars' family crests. It is related to the 'Kaomise' program of the Minami-za Theatre of Kyoto, an important December event in Kyoto.


This is part of the Tesukiwashi Taikan, a collection of handmade paper published, in an edition of 1000 copies, in Tokyo as a project to commemorate the centennial of Mainchi Newspapers and to preserve Japanese handmade paper. A collection on this scale had not been made before. This collection consists of 5 boxes of mounted and labelled samples with an explanatory book in 4 of the boxes. The text is in Japanese and with less detail, in English. Compiled and edited by a special editorial staff of scholars. Published by the Mainchi Newspapers of Tokyo, Japan.

Cultural context


Physical description

Washi sample mounted vertically on white, labelled and folded paper with 3-pointed leaf above scrolled 'm' watermark. Rectangular multi-coloured woodblock print sample. Various round, near round, square and triangular solid coloured medallion-like objects on a black ground with white dots. The medallions are of blooms, birds, butterflies and various geometric shapes. Wide white border at top and left; narrow on bottom and right. Smudged along right edge. Mounting paper folds from top over part of sample.