Culture & Art

Jun 1, 2017


They're umbrellas, but of paper. They seem to be the result of an advanced origami technique, but in fact it is a very different process, also coming from Japan.

Each wagasa is made from renewable materials, among which stand out bamboo, ego wood, rope, glue and washi, traditional Japanese paper. This paper is the great evidence in distinction to the western umbrellas. They are also differentiated by the hand-made production method – which can take several months – or by the number of ribs that support the cover; while the western umbrella is about eight ribs, this traditional Japanese umbrella can have between 30 and 40 ribs.

Disregard if you think wagasa is useless on rainy days, in addition to the paper itself, it is fortified and turn waterproofed with persimmon, linseed oil and wood oil.

Although it has become famous in Japanese culture, wagasa comes from China, arriving in Japan by the use in Buddhist ceremonies, a tradition dating back to the 6th century. At the time it was used only among privileged members of the society, it was believed to offer protection, beyond the sun and rain, but also of evil spirits.

There are several types of commonly call Japanese umbrellas: bangasa, prepared for the rain; janome, which is distinguished by the pattern from the snake eye; nodategasa, with larger dimensions, like a beach umbrella; and maigasa, suitable for Japanese dances, but not for the rain.

Despite the important role occupied in the culture of Japan, the production of the wagasa became smaller and smaller, as its place got taken by the western umbrella, more resistant and cheaper, therefore, more convenient.

In Kyoto, capital of Japan for many years, there are several places where you can get a wagasa, but only one establishment remains faithful to the kyo-wagasa, a unique model of this city. Hiyoshiya shop presents the iconic models of the original wagasa and, simultaneously, responds to the competition, combining the beauty of washi paper with the decoration offers many lamps that refer largely to the traditional umbrella.

The traditional wagasa have taken a prominent decorative role, which has led artists to dedicate themselves to the creation for ornamental purposes, that result on the elaboration of irreverent patterns in the cover of the umbrella or even supports that, once again, align the illumination to the umbrella and, through the color and texture of the paper, turn the light unique.

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