At the chilly washing place where well water runs into a narrow canal. “Chiri-tori” (removing dirt), a process for extracting contaminants from the boiled and melted skin of the wild boar, is done by hand with a humping of the back. This is one of the various papermaking processes and her meticulous craftsmanship maintains the high quality of the paper without a speck of dirt.
The true Mino paper that has been made in the Warabi district for centuries has been highly appreciated for its beauty and durability, and is a significant intangible Cultural Property of Japan. It is women who have largely supported the tradition. It was not too long ago, Hagi says, that the paper producers succeeded in freeing themselves from the archaic ‘wholesale’ system – a feudal practice in which middlemen controlled and exploited them financially. She married into a family in the same business as her own family, and thus her life as a wife was intertwined with the craft of papermaking. When she was pregnant with her first daughter, her husband was called into the army and went to the Burma Campaign. As a wife on the home front, she was engaged in manufacturing cold-protection vests made of paper. Having no correspondence with her husband, she grew almost hopeless; but he was returned home one year after the end of the war. She supported him at the studio, living as wife, daughter-in-law, and mother.
There are only two long-running genuine Mino papermakers. With great seriousness they sustain this traditional craft, along with peripheral techniques such as the use of an elaborate bamboo mat to maximize the papermaker’s skills. Her daughter-in-law Toyomi is the chief manager of their studio. Toyomi’s husband Takehisa, who is Hagi’s oldest son, has also joined after retiring from his company. This family in the village of paper continues to spare no pains.

Hagi Suzuki

Born in Mino City, Gifu Prefecture, in 1919. The genuine Mino paper was designated as a significant intangible Cultural Property of Japan in 1969. Besides shoji paper, it is used for the restoration of cultural assets. The Preservation Society for Genuine Mino Paper consists of eight members, including two from the Suzuki family. It endeavors to preserve and hand down time-honored production methods for future generations. The studio name stems from the late Takeichi, her husband.
Cooperation: Keiko Ichihara, Representative, TJP Corporation, Mariko Oguri, Vice President, Gifu Prefecture Rinri Corporation

From the left, Takehisa Suzuki, Hagi, Mariko Furuta, oldest daughter,
and Toyomi, daughter-in-law.

This article has been originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine,
February 2013 issue, published by RINRI Institue of Ethics. Partially rewritten
to update for this internet relaesing.

Spirit and Spine

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Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
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Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)