Once every couple of months or so, I open my door to find a delivery man standing there with a fairly large, flat package, being sent to me from Echizen. Do you know where that 'address' is in Japan? Actually, I shouldn't pull your leg like that. The return address on the box is not Echizen, but instead is the modern name of that area, Fukui Prefecture, and the contents of the package are of course sheets of handmade washi.
Imadate-gun in Fukui has an abundance of the clear running water that is necessary for this work, and for hundreds of years now, the papermakers of this area have specialized in making paper for woodblock printmakers. Most of the best-known prints of the Edo-era, works by artists like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro, were printed on Echizen Hosho, and many generations later, the descendants of those paper makers are still making paper, in the same villages, with the same methods.
The man who makes paper for my woodblock prints, Mr. Kazuo Yamaguchi, traces the origin of his workshop seven generations back. Just think how many sheets of paper his family has made over the years! What an incredible number of woodblock prints must have been created with the help of their skills!
I am not Yamaguchi san's only foreign customer. He sends paper across the seas to places such as Europe and Canada, where 'blue-eyed' printmakers are waiting eagerly for each shipment. They have learned a very special formula: 'enogu' + 'baren' + 'washi' = mysterious beauty!