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Japanese 'washi' paper artist based in Italy creates YouTube videos to serve as bridge

In this screenshot from a YouTube video, Meiko Yokoyama, center, explains about washi Japanese paper to Italian restorers.

KOCHI -- A Japanese "washi" paper artist who lives in Italy has created YouTube videos featuring craftspeople to become a bridge between the two countries.

    Seven videos featuring craftspeople involved in each of the two countries have been created by those including Meiko Yokoyama, 45, an Italy-based Japanese traditional handmade paper artist from the western Japan city of Aki, Kochi Prefecture. Yokoyama aims to indirectly encourage cultural exchange between both countries through videos after her planned events were canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    This screenshot from a YouTube video shows a book page being restored with washi Japanese paper.

    In one video, an Italian restorer is seen skillfully pasting a sheet of transparent thin washi paper to a Western paper, saying: "There are various kinds and colors. The washi paper is very important because we didn't originally have various types of paper for restoration work." In another video, paper manufacturers in the Kochi Prefecture town of Ino, where Tosa-washi is made, show scenes including scooping paper pulp to make the Japanese paper. There is also a scene in which craftspeople ask the question, "How is paper made in Italy, and how is it used?"

    Yokoyama, who directed the videos, is an artist based in Florence who works on her unique "Washi-Arte," in which she tears up sheets of washi paper and creates pictures by pasting the strips. She uses mainly Tosa-washi for her artwork, and has made efforts to familiarize locals with washi. The artist has also held workshops for locals to experience using the paper.

    However, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Italy was plunged into a serious situation where outings are restricted and offenders face fines. A series of Yokoyama's workshops and other events had to be canceled as a result. During that time, she came up with a possible idea of interviewing people involved in paper in the two countries and encouraging interactions by posting the videos.

    This screenshot from a YouTube video shows a paper manufacturer in Ino, Kochi Prefecture, introducing a plant that is used for paper making.

    Each video is about five to 15 minutes long. Yokoyama began the project in around March 2020, and has posted them since December on her YouTube channel "Meiko Yokoyama" (

    Five videos were shot by Yokoyama and others in Italy, and the other two were shot in Japan by staff from Ino-cho Paper Museum whom Yokoyama knows well. She explained that the tunes in the videos were specially composed by a music director at a Florence municipal theater.

    "With people involved in paper around the world watching the videos, I hope the 'paper bridge' will spread," Yokoyama said. "I also want people who are not directly involved in paper to watch, and I will be glad if they feel the appeal of the material in various forms."

    (Japanese original by Yusuke Kori, Kochi Bureau)

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