Sekishu-Banshi, papermaking in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Japan



Sekishu-Banshi, papermaking in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture

The unique techniques of Sekishu-Banshi papermaking create the strongest paper produced in Japan. Sekishu-Banshi has long been made in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, originally as a side business for local farmers. Once popular among merchants for account books, it is used today primarily for shoji (paper doors), calligraphy and conservation and restoration work. The extraordinarily durable paper is handmade from the kozo tree (paper mulberry), and specifically from the long, tough fibres just under the bark that are considered to have too many impurities for other forms of paper. During the environmentally-friendly process, locally grown kozo is harvested in winter, the outer bark steamed off, the fibres boiled, beaten by hand, mixed with mucilage in water, and then filtered with a wooden-framed bamboo screen to form sheets; the resulting paper is dried on wooden or metal boards. The art today is the work of specialist papermakers in an artisan’s association, for whom Sekishu-Banshi is the foundation of their craft and one of the most important parts of their cultural heritage. They pass their traditional techniques to young successors through hands-on training, preserving a sense of continuity and identity.


Decision 4.COM 13.56

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: Sekishu-Banshi: papermaking in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture has been transmitted from generation to generation while changing its social and cultural functions, and has provided a sense of identity and continuity for the community concerned as well as the Japanese people;
  • R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List would stimulate dialogue and mutual understanding among cultures worldwide that possess papermaking traditions, while fostering appreciation of cultural diversity and human creativity;
  • R.3: The Sekishu-Banshi Craftsmen’s Association, together with national and local authorities, is carrying out various safeguarding measures such as successor-training workshops and documentation to strengthen the viability of the element;
  • R.4: The element was nominated with the participation of the Sekishu-Banshi Craftsmen’s Association and includes evidence of their free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: The element is inscribed as an Important Intangible Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.



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