Mino Washi - Paper Art in Japan

The wooden-fronted buildings of Mino, so modest in their simple beauty, hide glowing treasures inside just waiting to be discovered. I had come away for the weekend with Yoko and her daughter En, new friends in Japan, for two days to see how the artists here are using handmade paper, to experience my first Onsen (hot springs) bath, and to stay in a traditional Japanese Inn. Lucky me.

This town is famous for handmade Washi paper due in part to the purity of the water from the river that runs nearby. Consequently it draws artists who have taken that material and created beautiful sculptural lamps and lanterns of every shape and design possible. As a designer-maker working with light and paper, it was a treat to come and explore.

We started in the Mino Washi 'Akari' Art Gallery - a beautiful vaulted timber-roofed exhibition space filled with the soft glow of these ethereal artworks.

A large image in the gallery of a lighting exhibition held outside in the streets of Mino - looks so magical...

An incredible amount of creativity in the myriad of different ways these artists are capturing light. I left feeling totally inspired and head buzzing with ideas.

After a friendly chat downstairs and gifts of origami birds and tiny parasols we left, armed with our map of the old part of town to see what else we could find.

After some advice to find the Mino Art 'Sakura' (Cherry blossom) event at Yoshida Kobo we ducked in and were greeted with the usual warm Japanese hospitality and welcome. We sat down to join in with the day's free workshop - and made these teeny tiny origami flower pegs.

There was also work on display from international artists who have come here to do residencies. To learn in depth about making paper, live locally and to make new work inspired by the experience. Needless to say - I would love to do this one day!

The traditional old buildings had beautiful details everywhere - In Yoshida Kobo house.

Next door was a 300-year old house that had been beautifully preserved. The minimal design of the shoji-screen / tatami-floor rooms is so calming to walk through.

Out in the peaceful garden we found this - you fill the bamboo ladle with water and drip onto the stones. The droplets fall into a deep hidden chamber and the sound is echoed. It honestly sounds like a stringed instrument being plucked. Beautiful. Imagine sitting next to it in the rain...

En with her origami parasol.

Next we stopped at this gorgeous paper goods shop. It was tempting to buy a lot of lovely things. But I managed to escape with just a couple of postcard prints.

This shop had loads more washi treasures, including delicate lace-like cut-outs to decorate your window.