Kamikoya Washi Studio
This guesthouse-studio hybrid is redefining cultural exchange in the Japanese countryside.
Deep in the wilderness of Shikoku, Japan’s smallest of its main islands, is an unexpected way to experience a traditional Japanese art form. Kamikoya Washi Studio, where you can learn how to make your own washi (handmade Japanese paper) and even stay the night, is not your typical tourist stop.
The studio and two-story minshuku (bed and breakfast) is atop a hill overrun with wildflowers and plants overlooking the Otado valley in the relaxing nature of Kochi Prefecture.
The studio, located in the remote Yusuhara Town, is run by longtime resident Rogier Uitenboogaart and his wife. They started it after Rogier moved to Japan to study washi paper making, a craft that started in 610 AD. Over 34 years later, he is part of the reason the practice endures in its purest form despite the advance of technology.
Rogier, who is from Holland, and his wife, who is Japanese, are gentle souls dedicated not only to their own thriving craft business but also spreading the joy of it to others through their workshop experiences.
At the studio, you can see how they make the washi paper almost entirely by hand — from the stripping the bark off the mulberry trees on their property to drying and breaking it down to the fibers of the bark to adding a sticky extract from the vegetable okra.
The workshop is a hands-on experience where Rogier takes you through each step. You get to make keepsakes such as a washi paper lantern decorated with leaves you collected from the yard. After it dries, they’ll later send you the homemade souvenir.
Beyond the studio, the guesthouse is a fusion of East and West, going from a log-cabin-like common area to a traditional Japanese guest room upstairs. Guests get a taste of a real Kochi meal made from local and organic ingredients like river fish and mountain veggies for dinner and then take a rest in the tatami mat room accented with washi paper lamps.
Near Kamikoya lies more of Kochi’s untouched nature such as the Shikoku Karst Natural Park, a gorgeous sea of rock formations and rolling pastures and the babbling tributaries of the Shimanto River, that make up the region’s lifeblood.
Kamikoya Washi Studio is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s your reward for venturing out into the real Japan.
There are a few tours to consider while traveling in this area. Here are two options:
- Chojuan lunch and washi paper making tour – See tour.
- Washi paper making and cycling by the Shimanto River – See tour.
This article is sponsored by Koch Prefectural Government.