Over the past couple of years, nearby Sakaiminato Port has become for a host for a number of cruise ships, and as part of the day tours available for one or two of those lines, there is a visit to the Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum which includes a brief paper making experience. It’s something big groups can accomplish quickly, and they get an easy to carry souvenir that will likely outlast their own lives (or at least, I feel that’s a good guess because this paper can last a thousand years). I went along to help interpret and move these workshops along smoothly and make the most of everyone’s time, and thankfully I had the chance to jump in and try it myself between tour groups.

You start with a frame on top of a screen, with which you scoop the mulch, and then shake a little to even out the material and drain the water from the edges.

Once the material is pretty settled, you drain out the rest of the excess water from the corner.

After that, you remove the frame and transfer the blocks of mulch to a dry piece of cloth. Even if you hold it upside down the mulch won’t fall off, but with a little press it transfers very easily.

After that, you fold up the excess cloth over them, and blot out the water as you flatten the two square piles of mulch.

Next, we had everyone write their names on little tags to press into the wet material, which could be easily pulled off later when the paper is dry. I liked to personalize mine a little more than that.

The paper is then quite simply peeled off the cloth.

The staff then takes the wet papers and applies them to the hot drier, where they are made crisped for about twenty minutes while everyone enjoys the rest of the museum.

And that’s it!

Now the question is how to use these papers, but I suppose I have my whole life to figure that out.


In my time here in the San’in region, I’ve often heard of the Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum out in the Yakumo area of southern Matsue, but I never prioritized going because I figured I had so many other things to do besides go look at paper. But it was worth it for more than just the paper itself!


The memorial museum is tucked in a quiet neighborhood along the mountains, and the rice fields on a drizzling day in spring are just as much as sight as the tourism facility itself.

There was an array of wildlife around the area, including a giant dragonfly that I rescued when it got in as someone was opening the screen doors. Just outside of the main entrance there was a little tray of guppies, and another little fellow who many of us thought was just part of the pottery.

As for where that dragonfly got confused? Here in the main lobby and gift shop, in the gentle atmosphere created by the washi (Japanese paper) screens.

But what is that on the screen? Another confused bug?

Nope. Just paper! One of many decorations along the butterfly-laden window.

Of course, there is also plenty of paper for sale to oogle at, as well as crafts made out of said craft paper.

And it besides the gift shop and museum, there is also a workshop for visitors to try out making paper themselves. This also has its own rustic charm.

My last entry about this spot will focus on the paper making experience.

Paper: one of those simple parts of life that gets more impressive the more you think about it.

Sure, we all know at some level that these sheets strewn about us are made of trees, and that there’s some sort of mulching process that goes into it, and that once the sheets are done you can print on it, cut it, or fold it to bring forth and array of shapes.

But what if I told you paper can hold water, last a thousand years, and remain aesthetically pleasing?

You can enjoy a nice read about the value and craftsmanship of paper on this Japan Times article by Mark Brazil. This, of course, this is a San’in region blog, and the San’in region is not the only one with a strong paper tradition. However, it is home to Abe Eishiro (1902-1984), the first washi (Japanese paper) maker to be designated as a Living National Treasure. Although the washi traditional existed many centuries before he did, he is credited with the creation of Izumo Mingeishi: Izumo region folk craft paper.

Although I say Izumo, I’m referring most specifically to the Yakumo area, which used to be its own village before being merged with Matsue in 2005. The Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum is one of many charms tucked around the Yakumo mountains, and in addition to the museum space and visitor workshop area, the Abe family continues to produce Izumo Mingeishi according to Abe Eishiro’s methods.

Throughout Japan, washi is typically made of different types of mulberry bark, and here in the Izumo region it is made with three types: Ganpi, Mitsumata, and Kouzo.

Ganpi: Considered king of paper materials, this materials won’t have color changes, wards of bugs, and repels water, but the bark takes 20 years to mature.

Mitsumata: paper made with Mitsumata can be used for many purposes, including printing.

A Mitsumata plant on the premises.

Kouzo: most commonly used washi material, as it is very strong–a key characteristic of washi.

Kouzo on the premises.

The article linked above goes into more detail about the length process of turning this bark into paper, which is dependant on the cold, clear water of this region to wash the materials of the various softening agents added to the boiling and mulching processes. Eventually, the bark is ground into mulches like this one that has no color added.

However, when you add color to the paper, it makes it look like the water itself is what holds the dye. This is an illusion, as even when making black paper, the water comes out clear.

They typically take orders for paper, which will determine how much material they use. Here, they are working on an order of black paper, and the craftsman is paying attention to the thickness of the pile as he works. The ingredients are measured out for a particular number of sheets, so if he’s only made a quarter of the sheets and used half the material, he knows he’s been making them too thick (though I’m sure he probably notices sooner than this). He works with mesmerizing rhythm, but still smilingly explains he work to onlookers.

The company workshop is around the corner and a short stroll among the neighborhood and rice fields from the museum, and I’ll focus more of the atmosphere on the museum and surrounding area in my next entry about this topic.

Yes, that’s Abe Eishiro up on the wall, and Izumo Mingeishi all over the window. There are more surprises on that window…