Karakami means decorated paper to cover Japanese style sliding door such as Fusuma and Shoji and partitions like Byobu. As the name “Kara” suggest, the original Karakami, Mon-karakami (Chinese patterned paper) was first brought from China, then Hokuso dynasty, and artisans in Heian period (794-1185) adopted the technique from such beautiful papers and developed Japanese style decorated paper.
The needs were broadly divided into two types; one was for decoration of Buddhism text using gold and silver scatters in Nara (710-784) and Heian period, the other was for decoration of Waka (Japanese poem with rhythms) collection books mainly utilizing woodblock printing. Later, the beautiful paper became to be used for household interiors like Fusuma and Byobu. Until Edo period (1603-1867) started, the art primarily developed in Kyoto area and established its sophisticated style.
After Tokugawa Shogunate ended the war period and built Edo town, many artisans moved to Edo from Kyoto since demand for Karakami to decorate houses surged. Then Edo Karakami’s own style began to be developed to meet the request from Edo citizens.
For about 300 years, Edo Karakami artisans responded to such needs and engaged in adding beauties to various houses and architectures for such as domain leaders, town residents, shops, and temples and shrines.
The characteristics of Edo Karakami is seen in its relaxed and flowing patterns which reflect the town culture of Edo. In addition, natural, seasonal motives surrounding daily lives such as flowering plants and waves were favored.
Modern artisans use the same technique, which divided into three ways; Mokuhan Tezuri (woodblock printing by hand), Shibugata Nassenn Tezuri (paper stenciling by hand), Kinginhaku Sunago Temaki (scattering gold and silver powder). Each technique requires designated artisans for its own and artisans work hard together. The technique has been succeeded in this way.
Since lots of fire occurred in Edo town, woodblocks and stencil paper were more important than printed paper. Thinner stencil paper was more preferred in Edo era. Some of such woodblocks and paper are still used.
Edo Karakami was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1999.