I love making tools.  As much as I enjoy scultping, I love making the necessary tools just   as much.  So I guess it was natural for me to fall in love with the process of making paper.  Right away I should say that there is a profound difference between producing paper (or tools) and making it (them).

Karasuyama translates, I think, to Crow Mountain.  It is one of the most idylic place on the earth.  The village is full of old houses with thached roofs.  The streets are narrow and the river runs in a series of small falls and rapids past the town.  At the summer festival there is a lot of theather, a lot of paper (of course), and lots of grilled fish from traps in the river.

With a great deal of pleading I was able to spend a week learning what it was to make paper.  It was cold, grueling, and totally delightful.

Water Filter; water comes off the mountain into this tank where the sediment settles out.  The clean water is then used in the papermaking.

What some people refer to as Japanese rice paper is not really made of rice.  The hand made paper of Japan is made from mulberry bark.

I started my batch of paper by cooking the bark in lye for 12 hours.  Since it was a wood fire I had to tend it for that entire time.  We started at 3 in the afternood and I got to bed shortly after 3 in the morning.
A lot of time to look at the stars above crow mountain in the cold spring air.  The hot lye dissolves any organic impurities in the bark.  This is the top view of the cooker, the fire is below.

After the cooked bark cooled I got to beat it with a stick for 4 hours only stopping to take these posed pictures.  The obasan and my sensei didn't really beat it much, they were just posing for photos.  It's backbreaking and I found out after I finished that now days they use a mechanical beater.

The result after a severe beating is pulp.

There is a little canal running through the cleaning room.  It's a wood trough with water from the tank running through it.  Elderly women sit for hours at a time washing the pulp to remove any impurities.  In the winter the water numbs the hands in seconds.  But the women laugh and tease me as I fumble at the job.  The chat all morning, stop for tea breaks and lunch and then work til four, cheerful throughtout.

Finally the paper goes into a bug tub (in the background here) with a lot of water.
You gather the paper/water mixture in a kind of screen, then lift it out of the water
shaking and moving the screen in a delicate dance to make sure the pulp spreads evenly.
Once the water is all gone you have a very wet sheet of paper.  You carefull peel it off
and put it in a stack of other sheets alternating with felt.
The stack then goes into a hydraulic press and the rest of the water is squeezed out.  At this point the fibers a locked and it really is paper.

After it comes out of the press you seperate the sheets and put them on a drying rack, or for the lesser grades (or sometimes when it's raining out) on a large metal plate, heated by a wood oven.

While I was there they got a request from a very rich man to have his emblem cast in a single sheet of paper about 6' x 6'.  He intended it for shoji.  The whole crew has to shake the large screen togeather in unison.  They had a really hard time peeling off the sheet once it was formed.