tourism

From Tree to Paper: Learn Washi-Making from a Craftsperson using the Artisan’s Own Tools

Turning Mountain Foliage into Japanese Washi:
A Papermaking Experience at Nao Tesuki Washi Workshop (3hrs)

Transforming the mountains of Saga into paper
The seventh-generation owner of Nao Tesuki Washi, Gen Taniguchi
The experience begins by mixing the materials needed to make paper
Making washi with plants foraged from around the Nao mountain village
A variety of washi products are available at the studio shop

Traditional Japanese paper (washi) has been produced in the Nao region of Saga Prefecture for over 300 years. Under the guidance of sixth-generation owner Yujiro Taniguchi or seventh-generation owner Gen Taniguchi, experience a papermaking apprenticeship at the last remaining washi workshop in the area, Nao Tesuki Washi. Stroll amidst the expansive kaji mulberry fields in the tranquil mountain village of Nao before heading to the papermaking workshop. Learn about the region’s history and the complete washi-making process from tree to paper. Afterwards, with the same tools and methods washi artisans use, make your very own washi paper infused with plants from the surrounding mountain village.

  • Experience a papermaking apprenticeship under the guidance of a Nao Tesuki Washi craftsperson
  • Stroll the mountain village of Nao while learning about the history of the region and washi-making
  • Gain a rare look into a papermaking workshop (most washi makers do not allow visitors), with detailed explanations from the craftspeople themselves
  • Make washi with the same tools and methods artisans use
  • Choose between creating washi infused with flowers and plants, or one with a translucent watermark design
  • Browse artwork and purchase washi at the studio shop
Gen TaniguchiSeventh-generation owner of Nao Tesuki Washi
After college, Taniguchi worked in the apparel industry industry before taking over his family’s washi business. In addition to making washi for use in traditional architectural restoration, festivals and Shinto rituals in Kyushu and across Japan, Taniguchi has also launched his own artistic project KMNR™, through which he presents a variety of washi-made works.
Destination Info

What is Nao Washi?

The Nao Washi craft began hundreds of years ago when the village chief at the time, Yoshisuke Nodomi, learned papermaking techniques in Chikugo Mizoguchi-mura (modern-day Chikugo City, Fukuoka Prefecture) from the founder of Kyushu’s paper industry, Shonin Nichigen, and brought this knowledge back to Nao. The region is naturally rich in the materials indispensable to washi-making: clear water and kaji mulberry. The long fibers of the kaji tree give Nao Washi its unique thinness and strength, characteristics that lend to its use in shoji screens, fusuma sliding doors, and paper lanterns. The kaji mulberry’s long fibers also allow for various materials to be infused into the paper itself, creating the potential for a diversity of creative expressions.

Nao washi is made from the kaji mulberry tree
By using the long fibers of kaji, Nao Tesuki Washi can create paper designs as thin as lace

The Last Washi Workshop: Nao Tesuki Washi

Though there were more than 100 washi workshops in Saga Prefecture’s Nao region during the early 20th century, the Taniguchi family workshop — Nao Tesuki Washi — is the only one that remains. The entire process of papermaking happens here, beginning with the cultivation of the kaji mulberry trees used to make paper pulp. Due to its thinness and durability, Nao Washi is used for restoring items of cultural importance across Japan, such as parade floats of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine and Karatsu Kunchi Festival, lanterns used in the Hakata Yamakasa Festival, and sacred objects of the Yutoku Inari Shrine.

The Nao Tesuki Washi workshop
The Peace Letter is made from 1000 origami prayer cranes
Program Contents

A History-Filled Walk Through the Mountain Village of Nao

Nao Tesuki Washi collects almost all of its raw materials from the surrounding mountain village. The area is also rich in spring water essential for washi production. Walk through the tranquil mountain village of Nao with a washi craftsperson, and head to the mulberry fields behind the workshop. Along the way, collect plants and flowers to infuse into the washi you will make later. After taking a close look at kaji, the same raw material used to make paper at Nao Tesuki Washi, head back to the workshop to learn about the process that turns the tree into paper.

Strolling through the mountain village of Nao
Gathering local foliage

Make Washi with the Same Tools Craftspeople Use

After mixing finely-separated kaji fibers and a viscous liquid made from the sunset hibiscus plant (tororoaoi) in a large tub filled with well water, create washi with a 970 x 670 mm wood-framed papermaking tray. This is unique experience in which you will be able to use the same tools as craftspeople do, rather than smaller versions often used in water-downed papermaking experiences. With the help of a system of bamboo springs that hang from the ceiling, move the papermaking tray back and forth, and side to side. Arrange the flowers and plants you’ve gathered onto the washi, and brush the finished washi onto a steam boiler for drying. You’ll be able to take home the finished washi right away.

Make washi with the same tools used by the craftspeople at Nao Tesuki Washi
After the washi is dried, you can take your finished work home
Tour Code GSSG01
Dates 15 Monday to Friday 13:00~
※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.
Duration 3 hours
※Please note that the time required for the experience may vary greatly depending on the number of participants, weather, and the design of washi made.
Schedule
12:55

Gather at Nao Tesuki Washi (studio shop located next to the workshop), reception.
※Choose between creating washi infused with flowers and plants, or one with a translucent watermark design

13:00

Head to the kaji mulberry fields with sixth-generation Nao Tesuki Washi owner Yujiro Taniguchi or seventh- generation owner Gen Taniguchi.Gather foliage growing around the field to infuse into your very own washi.

14:00

Return to the Nao Tesuki Washi studio for a workshop tour. Afterwards, begin the papermaking experience: mix kaji fibers and sunset hibiscus into paper pulp, make paper with the same tools artisans use, and dry the washi to finish the process.

15:30

Feel free to browse the Nao Tesuki Washi studio store, where you can purchase washi (cash and credit card accepted) and enjoy works created from Gen Taniguchi’s art project KMNRTM. After the washi you made is finished drying, take final photos to conclude the program.

Languages JapaneseSupplementary explanations in English via translation device or lecture board can be provided upon request. Please make a note in the message box during registration to request this service.※An English interpreter can also be arranged for an additional fee. Please contact UNA Laboratories for more details.
Participants Minimum 2, Maximum 6
※Only one group can participate at a time
Meeting Place
Nao Tesuki Washi
4756 Oaza Nao, Yamato-cho, Saga City, Saga Prefecture
※ For those coming by car, please use the free parking lot located in front of the workshop.
Reservation Deadline 7 days before the start of the tour (for example, please reserve by October 3rd for a tour that starts on October 10th)
Payment Method Advance payment at the time of reservation (VISA, Mastercard, Amex, JCB)
Attire Please wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty
Note About Tour Conductors There will be no tour guide accompanying this program. Customers are responsible for managing their own itineraries.
Assistant Tour Conductor There will be no tour guide accompanying this program. Customers are responsible for managing their own itineraries.
Please Note
  • It may take some time for the washi to dry depending on its thickness. In some cases, we may send the finished washi to you by mail (payment upon delivery).
  • The tour will be held even in the event of rain, barring cases of inclement weather such as heavy rain or a typhoon.
  • All photos displayed on the website are for illustrative purposes only. As the workshop is not a tourist attraction, please note that the degree to which guests may enter the workshop may differ from day to day.
  • Guests who are under elementary school age may attend the tour accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, UNA Laboratories and Nao Tesuki Washi shall not assume any responsibility for accidents/injuries that occur in the parking lot and/or during the tour.
  • We advise taking out domestic travel insurance when participating in this tour.
Cancellation Policy 20 to 8 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 20% of the tour fee
7 to 2 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 30% of the tour fee
Day preceding the tour start date: 40% of the tour fee
Before departure on the tour start date: 50% of the tour fee
After the start of tour or no-show: 100% of the tour fee

Reference: Nao Tesuki Washi Website

UNA Laboratories COVID-19 Policy

UNA Laboratories is committed to ensuring the safety of our customers, staff, and community. In accordance with municipal, national, and industry guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases, UNA Laboratories is implementing the following measures:

  1. 1. Guides will wear a face shield during tours.
  2. 2. Guests are requested to wear a mask.
  3. 3. Hand-sanitizing alcohol will be provided.
  4. 4. We will check your temperature and general physical condition at the start of the tour. UNA Laboratories reserves the right to refuse tour participation if a customer’s temperature is over 37 degrees Celsius.
  5. 5. We strive to maintain adequate social distance throughout the tour, so the maximum number of participants will be capped at six.

Travel Planning: Implementation

  • UNA Laboratories Inc. (Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Registration #2-951)
  • 3-12-22-302 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0022
  • TEL: 092-982-7956E-MAIL: tour@unalabs.jp
  • Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors:
    Aya Tamura, Noriko Yahata, Rei Watanabe
  • Business Hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
  • *Requests received outside of business hours will be processed the following business day.
  • *Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors are responsible for transactions held at the sales office that processes customers’ travel. Please do not hesitate to contact the aforementioned Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors with any questions or concerns regarding the travel contract.

Tour Information

Dates
Monday to Friday 13:00~
※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.
※This program is scheduled to begin Spring 2021. If you would like to be notified when registration opens, please fill out the form below.
Duration
3 hours
Recommended Age
None
Price
25,000yen
(includes tax and material fee)

※Guests under 12 can accompany a parent or guardian on the studio visit (without papermaking) for free.