Wholesaling Fine Japanese Papers for Conservation, Art and Craft

Handing down the spirit of family
Story of Moriki Paper<2>
in the growing period (1970s - 2010s)

Beginning in the 1970s, management of Moriki Paper was handed down from Yasumi to the next two generations: father-and-son Shinji and then Takao. Directly taking over the business from founder Yasumi was Yasumi’s nephew, current president Takao’s father, Shinji. From the early days of the company, information exchange with overseas customers was very active, but as for trade, persistent problems with exporting and exchange meant that much of the trade was done through domestic companies. Proceeding from these conditions one step at a time, Shinji began direct business with America in 1979, and West Germany in 1983, and exports to the West began to gain momentum.

Business changed from domestic trade and brokered transactions to direct communication with various foreign countries. While increasing cooperation with washi cooperatives of production areas such as Echizen and Tosa, and holding more papermaking demonstrations and exhibitions in foreign countries, Moriki Paper became more active showing visitors from foreign countries to Japanese papermaking areas. Current president Takao, from around his teens, accompanied his father as he actively expanded business in Western countries such as America, Canada, Germany, and Britain, observing and directly experiencing overseas trade.

Several decades after Yasumi, in the 1990s, washi exports were faced with a new problem. There were reports circulating in the West that among washi with the same name there were a lot of poor quality imitation products. With the increase in washi products, products that didn’t maintain genuine washi’s high quality standards were released onto the market as Japanese products. Among these were copies of Japanese unryushi and rakusuishi papers, whose production had begun in southeast Asia, especially Thailand. Also, there was a period in the late 1990s when long-term partners in the West were bought by large companies, or their owners changed, and for many reasons the overseas washi market changed greatly. Faced with these circumstances, Takao quit the company he was working for and joined Moriki Paper in 2000. With the mission to once again supply the high quality washi that customers wanted, Takao and his father – whose knowledge of Japan’s washi was extensive – actively visited various foreign countries, and more than ever engaged in information exchange with overseas partners. Soon, they were able to further increase trading partners to include Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and others.

Takao took over the business from Shinji and became company president in 2008. In June of the same year the World Washi Summit was held in Toronto, Canada, a huge event planned by Moriki Paper’s North American partner The Japanese Paper Place, in cooperation with Moriki Paper. There were papermaking demonstrations by the three young papermaking craftsmen who were invited from Japan, and for more than one month in more than 30 galleries in the city, artworks that used washi were exhibited, and various lectures and workshops were held at art museums, museums, libraries, and art universities in and around the city. During the Summit a bazaar to sell paper, and a washi fashion show were held. It was an important opportunity for exchange between people who regularly make use of washi – artists, companies, conservators, and craft artists – and the papermakers.

Since the foundation of the company the core of trade has been with the West, but lately the market is gradually expanding to Asian and Middle Eastern countries, such as Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and the UAE. At the same time, Moriki Paper regularly participates in foreign partners’ exhibitions and in various meetings, such as The Japan Society for the Conservation of Cultural Property. In order to hear directly from end-users in places such as printmaking, bookbinding, and conservation studios, the frequency of visits to these studios is also increasing.

In 2014, the traditional handmade washi making methods for Sekishu Banshi, Hon-Minogami, and Hosakawashi were registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage items, and global attention has once again become focused on the value of washi. As one of the only companies in Japan focused for many years on washi exports, Moriki Paper is increasingly asked for opinions or advice on various occasions. As a result, Moriki Paper is more than ever actively working to broaden the understanding of washi’s potential and importance at washi-related events both in and outside of Japan.

In the devastation immediately after the war, washi gave people hope. Now, even 70 years after the war, Moriki Paper strives to deliver to the world the same high quality washi that Yasumi did. It has been 90 years since the foundation of the company, and “the Moriki mindset” of conveying the true value of washi has been handed down over three generations, and will continue into the future.

moriki paper