kyoseishi (強制紙, きょうせいし, kyōseishi, enforced/strengthened paper) is a type of traditional japanese paper that is given strength and water/wind-resistance via coating it in konnyaku (蒟蒻, こんにゃく, konjac) and crumpling the paper to work the konnyaku paste into the fibers of the paper.
konnyaku is also a foodstuff in japan – something like 99% of its production is for eating (it's pretty good – like fancy jello, i guess). under its "english" name of konjac, it is found in some skin products: yes, using this paste will make your hands super soft afterwards.
why would you want to use kyoseishi, though? if you want stronger paper than normal (and are OK with a crumpled look). it is trivially easy to tear most commercially prepared kyoseishi, which may have only one or two coats of konnyaku on it. however, with up to 4, even the most wood-pulpy kyoseishi can be used as clothing. if you have higher quality paper, then your kyoseishi will also be higher quality.
methods of kyoseishi preparation
adapted from a class by Linda Marshall.
- apply konnyaku to one side and wait for ~ 1 minute for the konnyaku to soak in
- flip the paper over and apply konnyaku to the other side, waiting again to let the konnyaku soak in
- touch up any dry spots – most likely on the edges
- crumple paper into ball and roll around for ~ 1 minutes
- uncrumple and let dry
repeat steps 1-5 for additional strength. 4 coats seems to be a good, average amount, but i am tempted to see what 100 coats would be like. 😁
the traditional method
i call this the "traditional" method, as it is the one most often referenced in books.
- coat one side of the paper with konnyaku
- gather sheet into a ball
- uncrumple and let dry
repeat steps 1-3 for the other size. and repeat the steps of applying paste to both sides for increased strength.
once dry, crumple into a ball and simmer in a lime bath for 1 to 2 minutes. i recommend Donald Farnsworth's short book Momigami for more information on this – i have not done it myself and he even says he finds it to not be necessary.
Taken from A Song of Praise for Shifu by Susan J. Byrd, pg 227.
She [Matsumoto] explained the method of making thick sheets of crumpled paper that she uses in her work as follows. Two sheets of kōzo paper are placed one on top of the other and immersed in water. After the papers have sufficiently absorbed the water, they are removed, the water is squeezed out, then the paper is crumpled and tossed for the duration of two hours. After two hours, the papers adhere to each other. Some of the papers she has used were coated with fermented persimmon juice, which adds strength and water-resistance.
i tried this method with two sheets of 100% thai kozo:
- immersed pair of paper for 1 minute, pushing out as much air between the sheets as i could while it was underwater
- squeezed out some water out
- started crumpling
after maybe 10 minutes, a lot of the fine kozo fibers started to web in a layer, eventually rolling off, much like paper thread/shifu. after about 40 minutes, the paper was much drier and easily came apart – no adhesion whatsoever.
the question then is, what part of this method did i do incorrectly? paper type? water immersion time? crumpling?
when applying konnyaku
- scrunch up each corner towards the middle
- scrunch up each edge towards the middle
- fold four corners into the middle and then fold the newly created four corners into the middle as well
after any of these three techniques, scrunch into a ball and then unscrunch carefully.
when preparing to make momigami
momigami is strong, textile-like paper that is the result of repeated crumpling of kyoseishi.
my method for crumpling is a follows:
- first prepare by rolling in a tube - short wise, flip sides, long wise, flip sides, diagonally, flip sides – scrunching lightly each way. this is my attempt to reduce tearing, which seems to occur when one crumples willy-nilly with a still-stiff sheet.
- after loosening up the sheet, the method is to start at a corner, scrunch up by pulling in the paper, then spreading it out and smoothing the creases. repeat until soft enough – shouldn't feel starchy.
a good indication you are into the "soft" phase of the paper is when, when rolled into a tube, it is easy to squish the tube inwards, that is if there where a tube roller inside the rolled up paper, you could squish inwards along the tube.
other write ups on momigami will mention the importance of rubbing the paper against itself (e.g. folding lightly in half and rubbing the touching parts). i incorporate this too, but since i mostly do the crumpling while walking, it's a bit harder to do consistently and effectively.
quotes on kyoseishi
- Byrd = A Song of Praise for Shifu by Susan J. Byrd
Byrd, pg. 222
Shimada became interested in a special kind of sized paper called kyōsei-shi that is used to make a sturdy nonwoven cloth (kamiko). Papermakers of this special paper – Kyūemon Abe and Shizue Abe – live in Yanagyū TAihaku-ku, a ward of the southern part of Sendai City. It is to be hoped that they or someone else will continue to make kyōsei-shi, but in an article called "Kami wa Kami nari" that Shimada published in 1990, she openly expressed her concern for the paper's future. She wrote that, "In Mr. Abe's mind the curtain may have already gone down, but I want to applaud for an encore because his technique is much more attractive than [that of] the young craftsmen today." Kyōsei-shi, made in Shiroishi for kamiko production, has also been made in other parts of Japan but has different names
Byrd, 232, footnote 27
Kyōsei-shi (literally "strong paper") is a thick kōzo paper that was used as a heated paper floor (onshōshi) in ancient times, rice bags (komebukuro), silk cocoon bags (mayubukuro), and wrapping cloths (furoshiki). The furoshiki was originally used to carry clean clolthing and bathing essentials to the public bathhouses. Now, it is used to wrap gifts. Initially, the paper is strengthed considerably by sizing it with a viscous startch extracted from the root of the konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac), better known as the devil's tongue plant (konnyaku). (This substance also makes the paper more wind and water resistant, which is important if it is to be made into clothing.) Next, the coated paper is immersed into a solution of quicklime and water and boiled for about one minute. After the paper is removed and has dried thoroughly, a method called momigami (literally "massaged apper") is skillfully peformed. The treated paper is repatedly crumpled, rubbed, and streteched by hand to soften the sheets of the interlocked fibers. The result is a soft crinkled material that feels and acts more like clothe han paper. Yasuko Shimada wrote "Kyōsei-shi making" in Section 9 of the book Kami '89. Asao Shimura translated a detailed description of the process into English.
last updated: 2022-10-15 14:08:52