Awa is an old name for Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku.
Handmade paper production there is said to date back to some 1300 years ago. Inbe clan, a group of people who served for the Imperial court, moved to the central northern area of Awa, current Yamakawa town, and started to cultivate some plants, such as hemps and kozo, paper mulberry, for producing clothes and paper.
During this long years, other plants, mitsumata plant and ganpi have been also planted. For paper making, first of all, bast fiber (soft inner skin under hard outer skin) should be taken out from the plants. The procedure is time and energy consuming, however, the result, fiber, is long (easy to get wound), tough (hard to get torn), and shiny (make paper beautiful). Inbe people truly knew what people want.
In 1585, a samurai leader Hachisuka Iemasa took the Awa domain. He encouraged to grow four plants, mulberry, tea, lacquer tree, and kozo as “four trees for business”. After that Washi making in Awa domain became more thriving, and was popular all over japan in Edo era (1603-1867).
Awa Washi then were mainly used for drawing and calligraphy, and also, people loved Aizome Washi, dyed by indigo. In Meiji era (1868-1912), Awa Washi was exhibited in the Exposition Universelle de Paris 1889.
Awa Washi is still made by hand. The basic color is therefore very natural, soft, and has elegant glaze. In addition to drawing and writing, they also are utilized for artistic creations and practical stationary goods.
Awa Washi was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1976.