a japanese master papermaker in benguet

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  • 7/27/2019 A Japanese master papermaker in Benguet


    A Japanese master papermaker in Benguet

    Text and photos by Padmapani L. Perez,VERA Files

    Asao Shimura is a wandering artist, a bookmaker and a visionary who builds his handmade paper

    dreams in the tranquil mountain sitio of Poking, Barangay Labueg in Kapangan, Benguet province.

    When he was 23 years old and a graduate of industrial chemistry from Tokyo Technical College, he

    was introduced to washi(Japanese handmade paper) and indigo dyeing for the first time in Fukuoka

    Prefecture in Japan in 1973. Captivated, he studied papermaking and natural dye in traditional

    workshops. Eventually he moved to a thatched hut in the countryside to concentrate on

    making washiand miniature books with a letterpress given to him by his brother. Later, his

    papermaking quest led him to travel across all the continents, befriending artists and artisans, and

    exchanging techniques and ideas. He also organized international paper conferences and

    participated in exhibits.

    He first came to the Philippines in 1989 when the Duntog Foundation invited him to teach

    papermaking in Baguio for two years. He met and married his wife, Andrea, in 1991. They made their

    home where her roots are---in Poking. They now have four children. Since then he has traveled the

    length and breadth of the archipelago, giving papermaking workshops and searching for new

    materials for his craft.

    He uses mostly native materials likepia (pineapple), saba (banana), bajateng (wild banana), ricestraw, bamboo, mulberry, hemp and abaca. He also experiments with fibers of wild plants. From

    Poking he promotes handmade paper across the globe. Artists from around the world seek Asaos

    paper creations. He sends and receives packages of paper, materials and artwork through the

    Kapangan post office.

  • 7/27/2019 A Japanese master papermaker in Benguet


    Asao prepares the kami nabe for his guests.He

    continues to make miniature books. Nowadays he uses a computer and a digital printer that can

    print on handmade paper and regular paper. His miniature books measure 3 by 2 inches and are

    bound in the traditional, hand-sewn yotsume toji(four-hole binding) way. They are mostly aboutpapermaking but Asao also writes about his travels. His latest book isDenawon Sid-ag, which means

    honey hunting in Ibaloy. In it are Asaos photos and story about going with his friends on a hunt for

    wild honey in Kapangan.

    Last July 7, guests from Baguio, Japan and the Kapangan local government attended the fa-

    jiopening (soft opening) of the Asao Mini Museum, situated right beside the dirty kitchen of his

    familys home.

    Ricky Belino demonstrates paper making with bajateng

    (wild banana) pulp.Asaos assistant, Ricky Belino, gave a papermaking demonstration,

    using bajatengpulp. Tapey (rice wine) andpinikpikan (a traditional Igorot way of preparing

    chicken) were served alongside kami nabe (a Japanese soup-based dish cooked in a paper pot) a

    fitting combination, given the way Japanese and Ibaloy cultures blend and influence each other

    inside Asaos home.

  • 7/27/2019 A Japanese master papermaker in Benguet


    On exhibit this month are 34 miniature, handmade paper books that he printed by letterpress in

    Fukuhara, Japan in the 1980s. A few artists books are also on display. These are collaborations

    between Asao and artists who work on paper with paintings, prints and poetry.

    The next exhibit will focus on shifu, hand-woven textile made from paper thread. It will open on

    November 6, 2013, which, Asao says with a twinkle in his eye, is the 100thbirth anniversary of French

    Algerian philosopher Albert Camus.

    A few of the 34 miniature books created by Asao on

    exhibit in the Mini Museum.One of Asaos miniature books is a tribute to Camus 1942 existentialist and

    absurdist novel,The Stranger, with a wood print portrait of Camus. The book, also entitled The

    Stranger, is now part of the Camus Holdings at the Cite du Livre, Aix en Provence, France. Asao says

    that although the main theme of his coming exhibit isshifu, Camus will be the sub-theme and he will

    invite artists to collaborate with him on this. Just like the opening of the museum, this blending of

    themes, too, isfa-ji(fuzzy).

    Not serious, not clear, not formal, Asao says of his theme. Construction without drawings belongs


    For example, rather than find a carpenter to build the mini museum, Asao decided to do it himself.

    The doorframe, although slanted, works. When unlocked it automatically swings fully open as

    though inviting guests into the tiny space. Inspired by miniature books for which the American

    standard measurement is 3 by 3 inches, the mini museums walls measure about 3 by 3 meters.

    Asao sprayed the cement walls with the pulp of local saba mixed with three different kinds of ochre

    from France. Again the results were not what Asao expected. He had to spray several layers to make

    the walls a vibrant, sunny yellow.

  • 7/27/2019 A Japanese master papermaker in Benguet


    Underneath all thefa-ji-ness of the Asao Mini Museum and the master-artists story are a life-long

    learners exploration of the intricacies of papermaking, and a teachers dedication to sharing

    knowledge. Later this year, Asao will give workshops on book-making, bookbinding, and pia

    papermaking among others. During this time, the Mini Museum will double as workspace.

    The museum can be visited by appointment or by invitation only. Asao Shimura may be contacted on

    Facebook, where he posts announcements on his work, photos of everyday life and the glorious

    sunsets and sunrises of Poking, Kapangan, Benguet.

    (VERA Filesis put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin

    for true.)





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