Paper

The Japanese use paper for a score of purposes to which we in the West have never thought of putting it, one reason being that their process of manufacture leaves uncut the long fibres of the bark from which the paper is made, and consequently renders it much tougher than ours. Fans, screens, and lanterns, sometimes even clothes, are made of paper. A sheet of nice, soft paper does duty for a pocket-handkerchief. Paper replaces glass windows, and even to a certain extent the walls which with us separate room from room. Japanese housemaids do their dusting with little brooms made of strips of paper; and dabs of soft paper serve, instead of lint, to arrest bleeding. Oil-paper is used for making umbrellas, rain-coats, tobacco-pouches, and air-cushions, as well as for protecting parcels from the wet in a manner of which no European paper is capable. Paper torn into strips and twisted takes the place of string in a hundred minor domestic uses. We have even seen the traces of a harness mended with it, though we are bound to say that the result, with a restive horse, was not altogether satisfactory.

Then, too, there is the so-called leather paper, which is used For boxes and more recently for dados and hangings, and the crape paper now Familiar abroad as a material for doilies and illustrated booklets. Japanese writing-paper, properly so called, lends itself admirably to the native brush, but not to our pointed pens, which stick and splutter in its porous fibre. But a Factory at Tōkyō now turns out large quantities of note-paper sufficiently sized and glazed for European use, and remarkable for its untearable quality. Correspondents should, however, abstain from committing to this medium any communication delicate in its nature and liable to be pried into by indiscreet eyes; for the envelopes can be opened with perfect ease, and shut again without any evidence remaining of their having been tampered with. Other machine-made paper similar to that of Europe is also now manufactured for the printing of books and newspapers. This has the advantage of being able to receive an impression on both sides, whereas Japanese paper, owing to its porosity, admits of being printed on one side only.

Several plants and trees contribute their bark to the manufacture of Japanese paper. The paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is the most important of these; but the one most easily recognised by the unlearned is the Edgeworthia papyrifera, which has the peculiarity that its branches always divide into three at every articulation, whence the Japanese name of mitsu-mata, or "the three forks."

Book recommended - Rein Industries of Japan, p. 389. et seq. The description is full and elaborate.