Sightseeing in Saitama: Washi no Sato (和紙の里) World Heritage Paper Making in Chichibu (秩父) - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sightseeing in Saitama: Washi no Sato (和紙の里) World Heritage Paper Making in Chichibu (秩父)

A poster outside of Washi no Sato proclaiming the UNESCO intangible heritage status
Japanese paper craft has long been popular far outside the country's borders with for instance paper folding techniques like origami being practiced all over the world. The importance of the traditional Japanese paper-making technique, in Japanese known as washi, has also been recognised by UNESCO, and just November last year (2014) it was designated an intangible heritage by the organization.
One type of Japanese washi that is being produced mainly by villagers in Saitama's Higashi-Chichibu area is called Hosokawa-shi (細川紙). Hosokawa literarily means "narrow river", and the word refers to a stage in the papermaking-process where the paper material is washed in the cold, narrow rivers in area. Hoshikawa-shi is only produced in a small area in Saitama called Higashi-Chichibu, and the most famous place where the paper is made is a small theme park called Washi no Sato (和紙の里 lit. the Village of Washi/Japanese paper).
The entrance to Washi no Satō
A couple of weeks ago during my visit to Saitama with my mother and grandmother we had the chance to go on a tour around the western part of Saitama with our friend Sasaki-san from Heiseirō, a ryokan/hotel where we stayed during our weekend trip. Sasaki-san took us to Washi no Sato where we got the chance to try making our own Hoshikawa paper
Inside the main hall where we got to make Japanese paper.
Before making the paper we got a short guided tour around the "village". Inside the main building our friend told us more about the history of the Hosokawa paper technique and showed us a video of the history and process. The representative of Washi no Sato also introduced himself to us, and told us that they were expecting a French TV-team there one day later to record for one of France's main TV channels about the Hoshikawa paper.
A pathway through the sakura trees
After the short demonstration we got to pick flowers to use in our paper art. Since we visited during the cherry blossom season we could even use Japan's most beloved flower; the sakura.
Washi no Satō's main building behind a cherry blossom tree
After we had gathered enough flowers and straws for our project we went back to the main hall where one of the staff helped us in the paper making process. Of course the whole process of making the paper stretches over many months, as the paper material has to be processed before it turns into the substance that the final paper is made of.
A kid who gets to learn how to make Hosokawa-shi paper
My grandmother used to work with a lot of different types of handicrafts, mainly with paintings (you can find a collection of some of her paintings here) and ceramics, so she was very excited about the opportunity to try making some art out of the Japanese paper. Besides me, my mom and grandmother there were also a lot of families with kids visiting, and it was clear that the place was a popular destination among all ages.
Decorating the hosokawa-shi
My mom and grandmother working on their papercraft
Hosokawa-shi paper and sakura
Once our work was done one of the staff members added another layer of paper on top of the first layer so that the flower petals were kept in place between the new and the original layer of paper.
The finished papers were kept at the Washi no Sato for a day in order to dry, and the second day Sasaki-san from our ryokan Heiseirou drove and picked up the papers for us. A very nice souvenir to bring back home!
Pressing another layer of paper on top on the paperwork

Basic Info
  • ・Name of Place: Washi no Sato (和紙の里)
  • ・Address:441 Mido, Higashichichibu, Chichibu District, Saitama Prefecture 355-0375
  • ・Phone:0493-82-1468
  • Opening Hours: 
    • ・9 am - 4 pm (paper-making experience until 3 pm)
  • ・Official Home Page: (Japanese only)

Recommended Hotels close to Chichibu

Ranzan Keikoku Onsen Health Center Heiseirou
Onsen Health Center Heiseirou
Nagatoro Choseikan Ryokan
Wadoh Ryokan
Ikoi no Mura Heritage Minoyama
Heritage Minoyama Ryokan

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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