Snow Bleach: Sustainable, Traditional, And Beautiful

uchiyamashi paper lamps photo

(Photo of Uchiyama paper lamps from Saluki)

How do they get that special glow? During the harsh winter, craftsmen and -women have for at least 800 years developed special techniques to improve the quality of their goods in northern Japan. There is something about the strong sunshine you get in places like Niigata prefecture in February and March. Paper made from snow-bleached twigs and branches of mulberry and mitsumata, bleached in the slow, traditional way, is still in demand, but there is concern that forestry practices are not sustainable.

japan paper making snow bleach image

(Photos from Uchiyama)

Not only paper, but many foods and cloth like hemp can be bleached this way too. It is said that when the snow melts and evaporates, it gives off ozon, bleaching the bark in a natural manner, so there is no need for chemical bleach. After the dark colors of the bark turn pale, the material is dried under the sun and goes onto the next step of making pulp.

japan niigata snow bleach hemp photo

(Photo of hemp in Niigata, from Teikoku)

In Shirakawa, (famous for its Gassho-style houses that are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) cloth is also prepared in this unique way.

japan shirakawa snow bleach1 photo

japan shirakawa snow bleach2 photo

(Photos from the Furosato Appreciate blog)

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