Chiyogami: Japanese Woodprint Paper


I recommend anyone serious about patterns to explore the richness of Chiyogami paper (江戸千代紙).

Chiyogami, literally “thousand generation paper”, is a woodblock-printed paper that Japanese use to write special letters, poems, wrap gifts, cover books and even make paper dolls or small boxes.

Starting in Kyoto’s imperial court, the popularity of Chiyogami spread to Tokyo and Osaka at the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868).

Chiyogami patterns are colorful and closely linked to textile design. The story goes that papermakers visiting Kyoto from the countryside copied patterns from the kimonos of fashionable women they saw on the street.

Traditional prints may include kabuki references or streets scenes from Edo (Tokyo) as well as cranes and tortoises (representing long life and happiness) or pine trees, bamboos and blossoming plum trees (representing good fortune).

Above is a selection of Chiyogami I chose from Ito-ya, one of my favorite paper stores in Tokyo. There were many more sophisticated ones with golden touches, but I preferred the minimalist lines of these ones. Another must-see is Isetatsu, a woodprinter dating back to 1864 that recently published a book gathering their Edo period Chiyogami.

Chiyogami patterns are so delicate and beautifully crafted that I cannot imagine cutting, crumpling or folding the cotton-like paper.

I prefer framing them.

One Response to “Chiyogami: Japanese Woodprint Paper”

  1. I work with Chiyogami and love every pattern! Thanks for the book suggestion. ^_^

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