August 20, 2015

by Momoko Sonoda and Haruna Sugimto




Kyo-chiyogami is a colorful paper that is made with washi, or traditional Japanese handmade paper. It is a very fine example of a traditional Kyoto-style handicraft. It is also quite popular as a souvenir for tourists. The beautiful design is very attractive. Kyo-chiyogami can convey a quality of Kyoto through its color and design. When we see kyo-chiyogami, we can feel warm and happy.

History of Kyo-chiyogami

Kyo-chiyogami has 1,700 year history in Kyoto. When the first kyo-chiyogami was made, it was used only by the emperor of Japan, which he used for official documents. It was made not of washi, however. Instead it was made of hoshoshi, which is a kind of fine quality, thick, white Japanese paper. This type of kyo-chiyogami was expensive and of very high-quality. Eventually, kyo-chiyogami became common in the Edo era, so that all people could buy and use it. This is because kyo-chiyogami began to be made with washi, which was much cheaper than hoshoshi. Moreover, washi was easy to get, so people could get it for reasonable price. Kyo-chiyogami was designed with big patterns many years ago in the Edo era. This was due to the accumulation of techniques for woodblock printing. Now however, there are more than 1,000 kinds of different designs for kyo-chiyogami.

How to Make Kyo-Chiyogami

Washi is made using fibers from the bark of the gambi tree, the mitsumata plant, the mulberry, and various other sources of fiber, such as bamboo, rice, hemp, etc. All of these main basic ingredients can be found in Japanese mountains and countryside. After the washi has been made, then it is bleached. This is done with hot water and paste. Next, washi is dyed in various ways to create the base color. Finally, washi is naturally seasoned and patterned. The whole process takes about a day to complete. In old times, kyo-chiyogami was made with wood-block prints, but now it is made mostly by machines.

The Maruyama Coating Company is one of the more famous kyo-chiyogami manufacturers. The company is located in Nantan City of Kyoto Prefecture. They have all original designs and color. Moreover, they always make the paper by hand. Furthermore, production is entirely domestic, so they do not rely on materials from foreign countries.

Uses of Kyo-Chiyogami

There are various ways to use kyo-chiyogami. For example, people made dolls and fans with kyo-chiyogami in the old times. It looked a lot like what we now know as origami, or Japanese paper folding art. Origami was popular from the Edo Period, and many of those themes from the Edo period still exists. For example, men wore special helmets during that time, so people were often making origami helmets. There was even origami class at school from the Meiji period. Recently however, people are creating much different things with origami, like small boxes and cards.

Kyo-chiyogami is also used in Japanese arts, outside of origami. First, children like to use kyo-chiyogami to create or decorate things because of its classic Kyoto-style patterns. Many children use kyo-chiyogami for their summer vacation craft-work. Second, people use kyo-chiyogami as wrapping paper for gifts. If people wrap their presents with kyo-chiyogami, it will have a distinct and splendid Kyoto feel to it. Third, people decorate their rooms with kyo-chiyogami. This allows them to both appreciate and enjoy kyo-chiyogami in their rooms. It especially matches a Japanese style room. Some hotels in Kyoto decorate their rooms with kyo-chiyogami.

Paper Cranes - Orizuru (折鶴 - using Kyochiyogami

Paper Cranes - Orizuru (折鶴 - using Kyochiyogami


As you can see, kyo-chiyogami is popular among people of all ages and has many methods of use. For this reason, kyo-chiyogami has many charms.

Yamamoto Fumido

There are many shops selling kyo-chiyogami in Kyoto. One of the most popular shops is called Yamamoto Fumido, which was founded in 1872 in the Nakagyo ward of Kyoto City. It follows the traditions of Kyoto-style stores. For example, there is a big showroom in Yamamoto Fumido, where many types of kyo-chiyogami and small crafts made from kyo-chiyogami are on display and for sale. The kyo-chiyogami for sale there is of very high quality, so many people greatly admire the shop. There are so many designs there, which is one of the main selling points of their paper. For example, kousai is a vast array of color, containing many beautiful flowers. Aizome is a bright blue color, and contains castles drawn on it. Wazome, on the other hand, contains patterns of old fashioned toys. This is most popular with children. And all of these kyo-chiyogami are handmade. There are also many types of folding fans made with kyo-chiyogami for sale. For example, the kazari fan is red and has golden cranes and white crane on it. It is a luxurious folding fan.

How to Get There

The best way to experience the beauty and elegance of colorful kyo-chiyogami is to visit Yamamoto Fumido. The address is 612-1 Daimonji-cho Tominokoji-dori Shijyo-noboru Nakagyo ward of Kyoto City.  It is near the subway of Karasuma-oike station. The shop open at 10:00 am~16:30 pm and closed Sunday, Wednesday and public holiday.


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