The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books Course - Keio University


2 locations available
Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description


Learn about the history, production and design of papers used inside Japanese rare books.

Deepen your understanding of rare books and Japanese culture

The papers inside books can last hundreds of years if cared for correctly.

This course will look at the history of papers used inside Japanese rare books, and in other cultures across the world.

You’ll learn about the materials and technologies used to produce Japanese papers, particularly the use of traditional washi paper.

You’ll understand the crafting process used to create Japanese rare books, including the use of design and decoration techniques.

You’ll find out how to identify the different types and varieties of papers used in Japanese rare books.

What topics will you cover?

In Week 1:

  • How to categorize washi paper.
  • How the washi paper is crafted.
  • What kind of materials are used to make washi.
  • What you can tell by examining washipaper.
  • The history of washi.

In Week 2:

  • How the washi is coloured.
  • How to decorate washi during the sheet-forming process.
  • Gorgeous papers decorated with minerals and fabrics.
  • Even more variety of decoration such as embossing and shita-e.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:

  • Explain the definition and history of washi paper.
  • Classify washi paper by its production methods, materials, locations and purposes.
  • Describe the basics of traditional papermaking processes and two types of sheet-forming processes in Japan.
  • Investigate washi paper to identify its production method and material.
  • Identify several different techniques to decorate the washi paper used in Japanese rare books including colouring, usage of minerals and fabrics as well as special processes at the sheet-forming stage.
  • Explore the new possible usages of washi.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone interested in Japanese rare books and papers. It may be of particular interest to librarians and bookshop professionals, researchers and designers.

The course makes use of a number of visual resources which may, unfortunately, make some of the activities not accessible to learners with a visual impairment. Course videos are provided in Japanese with English subtitles.

This course can also be studied alongside two companion courses, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books and Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books.

The Educators/Hosts will facilitate this course for about three times a year. Our next facilitation period is 11 May - 24 May, 2020. While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.

Who will you learn with?

Takahiro Sasaki

I'm a Professor at Keio University's Institute of Oriental Classics. I'm the lead educator of the courses "Japanese Culture Through Rare Books" and "The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books".

Makiko Shiroto

I am a lecturer at Gakushuin Women's College and a member of the Society for the Study of Washi Culture. I'm one of the educators of the "The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books" course.

Who developed the course?

Keio University

Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.

Join this course



$259.99 for one year

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  • Access to this course for 4 weeks

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  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

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  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
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  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

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