安部榮四郎記念館

Abe Eishirou Kinenkan

ABE EISHIRO
MEMORIAL MUSEUM

San’in Good Thing Diary

List

ABE EISHIRO MEMORIAL MUSEUM

Museum of washi paper and mingei craft,
plus the experience of papermaking by hand

YouTube videos

Museum dedicated to living national treasure Eishiro Abe standing in the home of traditional Japanese papermaking... and fireflies

Upstream of the Iugawa River in the city of Matsue, in Shimane, is a small community by the Higashi-Iwasakagawa River home to the tradition of washi papermaking and a natural habitat for fireflies.

With an abundance of clean, clear water, the soil is ideal for growing kozo mulberry trees and mitsumata shrubs used to make washi. Papermaking started here midway into the Edo period (1603–1868). At its peak, the area housed 30 washi studios. But the advent of cheap machine-made paper in the Meiji period (1868–1912) forced traditional papermakers out of business until only one remained.

Concerned about the future of washi production in the old province of Izumo, one man Eishiro Abe (1902–1984) stepped forward as a savior. Since a tender age he had helped his family business of papermaking.

Eishiro used traditional materials and methods to produce gampi-shi, or washi made from fibers of the gampi tree. For his distinguished service, in 1968 he was designated as a “preserver of an important intangible cultural property,” better known as a living national treasure. Eishiro is forever the pride of Izumo.

He went on to conduct his own research, preserving the strengths of traditional techniques and adding contemporary sensibilities to perfect a new genre of Izumo washi called Izumo mingei-shi folk craft paper. This creation earned him the epithet “revolutionary of washi culture.”

The Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum was established in 1983 for promoting the art of washi and handing it down to future generations. The first floor displays objects that illustrate the history of washi, and the second floor examples of washi used in mingei crafts.

Our tour guide is Shinichiro Abe, a figure who inherits Eishiro’s spirit and skills. Shinichiro is none other than the grandson of Eishiro.
“I worked with my grandfather for about 10 years. He didn’t teach me with words. I watched him work, imitated his techniques, and practiced over and over again. He never scolded me. At home we were ordinary grandfather and grandson.”

Shiko Munakata dubbed Eishiro the “god of paper”!

Captain Uchiyama asked Shinichiro to describe Eishiro’s washi.

“His work was a fusion of two different worlds—traditional Japanese handmade paper and the modern mingei movement. Eishiro was capable of adapting to the needs of the times.”
Eishiro had met in person Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the mingei movement, and joined the movement himself. He also worked with the likes of British potter Bernard Howell Leach, Japanese potters Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada, and woodblock printmaker Shiko Munakata.

Munakata was especially close. Having been taught by Eishiro that paper is important, because bad paper can ruin the artwork, Munakata dubbed Eishiro the “god of paper.”

Next to the Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum is the Handmade Washi Learning Center, where museum visitors can try their hand at the art of washi papermaking. Expedition member Fabien, a French native and member of the international exchange program run by Matsue City, and of course Captain Uchiyama, decided to take on the challenge.

It turned out that Fabian is an avid frequenter of the museum and had made his own washi paper countless times before.
The experience is always fascinating, he says, and he wonders how long it would take for him to be a seasoned washi artisan.

Fabien is an expert on Matsue. He escorted visitors from France to the Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum and Handmade Washi Learning Center six times in the past year alone.

Izumo’s specialty washi is a craft that promises to enchant tourists from Japan and abroad alike.

{ Access }

  • ●Abe Eishiro Memorial Museum: 40 minutes by bus from JR Matsue Station

  • ●1754 Higashi-Iwasaka, Yakumocho, Matsue-shi, Shimane

  • [ more information ] Outer Matsue | Discover Matsue | VISIT MATSUE <<View the site>>

San’in Good Thing Diary

List

ABE EISHIRO MEMORIAL MUSEUM