Day 1: We arrive in the cold early morning to a small field on the mountainside about the size of a baseball diamond. It's a Kozo (mulberry) field where we harvest two rows of trees that will become our paper. All the trees have only one year of growth, meaning that kozo is a pretty sustainable material for making paper.
We cut the branches into specific lengths and walk down to a large log cabin surrounded by bamboo where we steam them until the bark falls off easily. We move inside where we then begin scraping the outer layers of bark off revealing only the natural fibers beneath. This is what will become our paper.
Day 2: Scraping, scraping, scraping. Wet hands and sore backs we scrape all day long sitting on stumps in a big circle around buckets of wet kozo. The end of the days arrives, and we finally walk down to the handmade paper factory, a beautiful, small building where only special commissions and the actual, really truly handmade stuff is made.
Day 3: The morning consists of Chiritori: the process of picking out all the teeny tiny black stuff we didn't scrape off with our knives.
In the afternoon, we beat the fibers on wooden blocks to separate all the long strands into something that looks like omelet, but feels like weird soft and gooey paper.
Day 4: The making of the paper begins.
Each team of students gets a sue and a kata: the sue is a handmade bamboo mat with the tiniest pieces of bamboo you have ever seen. the kata is the frame that holds the sue. The entire machine gets dipped into a vat full of water, fiber and neri (an eggwhite like substance made of hibiscus flowers that holds the paper together) and then as the water filters through it leaves the fibers behind. This process gets repeated again and again until you achieve the desired paper thickness. The sue comes out, and you press it down on the felts leaving your paper behind. And then repeat, and repeat and repeat. Two and a half more days, as much paper as we can make, and it will all be ours :)
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