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.
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