Hon-minoshi, now registered on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, is made in the Mino district of Gifu Prefecture (which is located in the middle of Honshu, Japan’s main island). Mino is favored with the clear-running waters of the Nagara River, and paper has been made there continually ever since the earliest days of handmade paper in Japan, 1,300 years ago. Artisans use only kozo, and the paper is known for its beautiful white tones, and for two seemingly contradictory qualities, softness and strength. While some ateliers with centuries of heritage are disappearing, here in Mino, they are keeping old traditions alive by sharing workshops, as the next generation carries on the ancient craft of making paper.
Mino, home to one variety of Japanese traditional paper, lives up to its reputation with events associated with washi. The Mino Festival in spring is a time of spectacular scenes and excitement, when pieces of washi, dyed pink and shaped like cherry blossoms, are carried on hana mikoshi floats through the streets. The floats, some large, some small, number about 30 altogether, and with all their hana (blossoms), they give the impression of cherry trees in full bloom dancing energetically. In autumn, during the Mino-washi “Akari” Exhibition, highly unusual lanterns with washi shades create a fantastic scene, which is appreciated by many tourists every year. Light shining through the paper casts a magical glow over the street at night.