In “All Tokyo Handmade”, craftsmen in Tokyo are making washi with kozo from Tokyo, as well as tap and underwater from Tokyo.
The craftsmen help grow the plants and conduct the process to make the material from the raw materials by hand. Even more, they manufacture the products by hand, too.
The aim of Tokyo Washi is “always keeping 1”.
Considering the current situation, it seems difficult for us to make 1 to 100.
Conversely, it is much easier to make 0 to 1.
However, it is extremely difficult to make the things which became 0 to 1 again.
That is why we are doing our best to keep 1, and hopefully, bloom to 2 and 3 someday.
Career: Video Production -> Event Production -> DTP Operator -> Display Designing -> Package Designing -> Starting Own Business
My first encounter with washi was when I was working on package design. Also, my ancestors were mizuhiki wholesalers in Iida, Nagano. This is what made me really interested in washi.
(The core of mizuhiki is made from washi.)
In 2015, I was planning, making, and selling washi goods all by myself. In 2016, I established the “Tokyo Washi General Incorporated Association”.
In 2018, I changed its business form to “Tokyo Washi Corporation” and started growing the material plants, making and selling washi all together.
We are making washi goods, which can be used naturally in anyone’s daily life.
We produce and propose items, such as frame pass holders, which will not break even in the rain, and A4 and B5 washi, which are not standard sizes for washi.
Furthermore, we are proposing washi bags, which are light and strong so it can be used in many ways. Additionally, we are selling seedlings and seeds of kozo, the material of washi, and tororo aoi plants,
a very important plant for papermaking. We introduce them and teach our customers how to grow them.
We are explaining that both plants are rare now, but it is not difficult to grow them. Our goal is to let more people know about washi.
We are holding workshops and events that provides opportunities to experience the real papermaking and to make their original washi.
Furthermore, we are planning and conducting events that have “making + ɑ”, such as a tour on which participants can make goshuincho (stamp book) and collect some goshuin (stamps) in shrines and temples.
We are not only providing opportunities to make washi but also introducing the history and the meanings of each tool and process, so these events are popular for both Japanese and foreigners.
Only kozo bark is used to make washi, so we are proposing to eat its flowers, fruits, and leaves (usually these parts are disposed).
We have been making tea and recipes for sweets using kozo leaves, as well as planning and having collaboration events that make dishes made from the flowers and sprouts of tororo aoi with other ingredients.
Tororo aoi is also called “Hanaokura” and sold as a vegetable in some places.
We are not only making and using washi but also planning the programs that people can enjoy with other perspectives.
Currently, we ask the people in Tokyo, Gifu, and mainly Ishimaki to handcraft Tokyo Washi’s washi goods and kits.
Our purpose of asking the people in Ishimaki is not only to provide restoration support for the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
I had been making washi goods for our shop by myself for a long time.
However, gradually I became unable to deal with mass orders.
So, I asked some subcontractors in Tokyo if they could make washi goods.
Most of them said “We can’t make them like craftsmen.” and refused because in order to avoid any damages on the goods, it requires a lot of time and effort.
We could only find one company which could help us. However, they also receive orders from other companies at the same time, so it is really difficult for them to meet all of our schedules and requests.
Since around 2012, I had been wanting to make a special handcrafting team for the future.
One of my friends was a social worker in Ishimaki and I had an opportunity to hear about the situation at that time.
She said, “A lot of people living in temporary housing and housewives want to earn some money and give something to their children and grandchildren.”
Also, I found that a lot of people in Ishimaki like handcrafting because there are numerous handcrafting clubs and shops where they sell their handcrafts, such as small goods, bags, etc.
Therefore, we held “The 1st Handcrafting Event” to measure people’s interest.
We got some good feedback, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find “the person who could mainly work on handcrafted washi”, which we hoped for.
Then we started to look for someone who could deal with specific tasks in our handcrafting.
We were worried if no one would join us because the conditions were demanding, but some people including housewives raised their hands.
We also asked them if they would like to continue to work, and then they all said, “I want to try.”
After we explained to them that we wouldn’t be able to ask them for a lot of work and there would be a little pay, they accepted these terms and then the team was officially launched!
The name Washi Naishokulists came from our wish of “aiming to be handcrafting specialists that make washi goods”.
Although it is sometimes difficult to communicate well because Ishimaki is far from Tokyo, they can complete their work according to what was asked. (I check the finishing and the readjusting to improve the quality of the products.)
As we are becoming more able to offer work regularly, more people are joining us from Gifu and Tokyo.
Although there still aren’t many people in our team, to grow it into a community and also a small industry is both our dream and goal.
I don’t have enough power to support them alone.
Instead, I would like to say that we gather power from everyone to spread the appeal of washi.
I got feedback from handcrafting people, “I wasn’t good at making it at first, but it became fun as my skills gradually improved.” It made me so happy and appreciative.
It is important to enjoy what you do even though it is your job. I’ll be happy if they join and help the process to make washi step by step and eventually become able to make washi to some extent.
In the future, I want to hold “Handcrafting Events” regularly and make in an employment style to get more people interested in handcrafting.
Of course, we also welcome enthusiastic people from other regions, too.