A Traditional Craft That Evolved With the History of Kyoto
- Est. 1902
- Kyo Karakami
- Kazunori Nishimura
Paper With a 1,300-Year-Old Chinese Lineage
Maruni has their roots in Nishimura Korokudo, a paperer established in Kyoto in 1902. They later evolved into Maruni Shoten, a wholesaler, and today operate as a workshop producing printed paper called “Karakami” using traditional techniques.
“Karakami” translates to “Chinese paper” (with “Kyo” being short for “Kyoto”). It specifically refers to the paper that was brought back to Japan about 1,300 years ago by envoys to Tang Dynasty China. Today, it continues to be produced in modern-day Kyoto.
When karakami first arrived from China, patterned paper was extremely expensive in Japan. It was used as writing paper for letters and waka (classic Japanese poems). Karakami can be seen in historical works that have survived to this day, such as those of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. Even after more than 1,000 years, the mica in the paper still makes it glitter.
Over the years, karakami evolved into paper used for “fusuma” sliding screens. It was at its most popular during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). As a result, even today, most people associate karakami with fusuma. However, karakami has also evolved since then to meet modern-day needs. On top of being used to make fusuma screens, it is also incorporated in all kinds of interior décor such as wallpaper.
Maruni draws on their strength as a wholesaler of fusuma and picture frame materials, as well as their experience with traditional karakami and woodcut prints, to create beautiful, modern interior decorations made with traditional techniques.
Creating Every Pattern With their Palms
Maruni has over 300 woodblocks that are more than 180 years old. Using these woodblocks and traditional colors made by mixing mica, funori glue, and pigments, they print traditional patterns onto paper one by one using their palms.
A surprising number of Maruni’s woodblocks feature designs that predate the Edo Period but can compete with many modern patterns.
The swelling, uneven layering of handprinted paper and the understated way it glitters when it catches the light distinguishes karakami from machine-printed paper and gives it a gorgeous, otherworldly aura.
Maruni’s Kyo Karakami is characterized by the unique texture that’s created when the paper is pressed between wood and human skin.
Today, karakami fusuma and wallpaper are used in both traditional and modern architecture, including shops and hotels. In recent years, Maruni has also expanded into developing gift items that draw on the charm, designs, and patterns of woodblock printing.
Message to Customers
Traditions Cherished and Transformed for the Modern World
Kyo Karakami, which has historically been used as fusuma paper, has become less common as the number of traditional Japanese-style rooms has decreased.
However, Maruni is dedicated to passing the craft down to future generations. That’s why, alongside manufacturing handprinted paper, the company also operates a workshop where people can experience making Kyo Karakami firsthand. It has been a great hit among a wide range of customers.
DIY karakami kits, traditional “uchiwa” handheld fans, and art panels have been prepared to help people understand the exquisite combination of modern sensibilities and traditional tools and techniques that define “Kyo Karakami.”
Add a little richness to your life and transform your home with the power of Kyo Karakami.
1979 Masao Nishimura awarded the Fifth Class Order of the Sacred Treasure