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Colorful and Beautiful Edo Chiyogami

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2021.04.15 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

Chiyogami is a type of Japanese paper on which traditional Japanese patterns and pictures of nature and daily life are hand-printed on woodblock prints. The Edo Chiyogami in particular is different from the Kyoto Chiyogami in that it is characterized by its strong and clear colors and shows Kabuki and Edo culture.

Chiyogami was first used in the imperial court to write tanka poems on paper with patterns, and was later introduced to the general public during the Edo period. With the development of Ukiyoe prints, multi-colored Edo Chiyogami came to be sold, and was widely distributed throughout Japan as Edo souvenirs. Chiyogami was used as a tool for play, wrapping paper, and as a sheet of confectionery, adding color to the lives of ordinary people.

Making a single sheet of Chiyogami requires the work of three craftsmen. The painter creates a sketch, the carver carves a board based on the sketch, and the printer prints on the board. Understanding this process of various people's efforts, makes even a small piece of Chiyogami more precious.

Ise-Tatsu is an Edo Chiyogami specialty store located in Yanaka. It has been in continuous business since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), making mainly Edo chiyogami, but also Japanese stationery, toys, and charms made from papier-mâché with stylish Edo designs. Although there are very few stores specializing in Chiyogami nowadays, Ise-Tatsu continues to produce Edo Chiyogami by maintaining the tradition of hand-printing and using handmade paper. The woodblocks are made of cherry trees that have been left to dry for two to three decades after being cut down to prevent shrinkage due to changes in humidity, and the paper is mainly handmade Japanese paper from Ehime, showing the attention to detail of the specialty store.

Address: 2-18-9, Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo

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