kyo chiyogami kamogawa chidori (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 may in the maker's 'Twelve Months of Kyoto in Chiyogami Patterns' series. Plovers and rough-hewn bamboo baskets filled with macadam used for waterway control are shown.


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 horizontally on white, labelled and folded paper with 3-pointed leaf above scrolled 'm' watermark. Rectangular multi-coloured woodblock print sample. 2 wide zigzag bands with stylized white or yellow line drawn birds. White crosshatched sections on either side and between bands. Yellow amorphous shapes in six-sided spaces creating by crosshatching. All on a red ground. White borders on right, bottom and wider on left. Smudged on right and along bottom. Mounting paper folds from left over part of sample. Orange stain in a line on back of mounting paper.