Washi is a style of paper that was first made in Japan. Washi is commonly made using fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub or the paper mulberry, but also can be made using bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat. Washi is one of the UNESCO’s Intangible cultural heritage objects and the unique strength makes its many uses so many it is hard to list them all.
Washi is generally tougher than ordinary paper made from wood pulp, and is used in many traditional arts. Origami, Shodo, and Ukiyo-e were all produced using washi. Washi was also used to make various everyday goods like clothes, household goods, and toys as well as vestments and ritual objects for Shinto priests and statues of Buddha. It was even used to make wreaths that were given to winners in the 1998 Winter Paralympics. Several kinds of washi, referred to collectively as Japanese tissue, are used in the conservation and mending of books.
Mr Tagaki explained the paper actually comes from the bark of the tree, not the tree itself, in fact only 4/5% of the tree is used. The trees grow an very quickly, around 2-3 metres a year and are harvested in December or January as it is important to do it in very cold temperatures. It requires a long process to make it into a pulp, it is steamed and peeled and hammered which has been done for centuries in Japan.
It will take a while to translate the interview but in the meantime here is a few photos to illustrate the amazing process.