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Takehiko Inoue Helps Make Record-Breaking Sheet of Japanese Paper

posted on by Eric Stimson
Paper destined for use as canvas in Tokyo art exhibit

Takehiko Inoue, the creator of manga such as Slam Dunk, Vagabond and Buzzer Beater, helped craft the world's largest sheet of washi (Japanese paper) on May 23. Working with a team of 20 other people, he produced a sheet measuring 3.3 meters x 10.7 meters (or 10'10'' x 35'1'') at the Ueyama Paper Mill in Echizen, a town in Fukui Prefecture known for its washi artisans. The sheet of paper was dubbed the Heisei Choujaku Daishi, or "Long Great Paper of Heisei" (the current Japanese era).

Inoue plans to use the sheet as a canvas for an exhibition in Tokyo's Roppongi district's Mori Arts Center Gallery on July 23. Entitled "Gaudí x Takehiko Inoue - The Source of Synchronized Creativity," it will lay bare the career and works of the celebrated Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, whose unconventional architecture and designs had a great influence on the Modernist movement in the early 20th century. Inoue is personally inspired by Gaudí's work and will display about 40 pieces based on Gaudí's life at the exhibition. As yet, however, Inoue is not sure what he will use the sheet for. "It's too big. It hasn't yet come into view for me. But I'd like to keep having a dialogue with this paper and be involved with the creation of Gaudí's world view."


Inoue is the one on the left.

Washi-making is a labor-intensive process. Branches of the paper mulberry are first boiled, stripped of bark and dried. They are then boiled with lye, washed, and bleached to remove starch, tannin and other impurities in the fiber. The fiber is placed in a vat with plenty of water and a thickening agent made from tororo roots. As seen in the photos, a screen is then lowered into the vat and shaken to even out the liquid. In this case the screen was shaken 50 times. "My back hurts," Inoue complained. "This is harder than I thought."


A demonstration of how to make smaller-scale washi

[Via Comic Natalie; Image from Asahi Shimbun]


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