Japan has long been revered for its unique and traditional techniques of crafting 'washi'-style paper, created from specialised bark such as that of the mulberry plant, Gampi tree or bamboo. Now, UNESCO has decided to preserve these methods forever to ensure they are not lost through the ages, by adding them to its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The decision was made at the organisation's intergovernmental committee, held at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris today (November 27th). Members of the committee noted in particular the highly traditional methods that have been handed down throughout the generations, as well as the bond the practice inspires in communities.
They also said that cultivation of paper mulberry trees and the educational opportunities required in creating the paper had added weight to their decision.
Japan nominated the skills for making three specific types of paper. They are Sekishu-Banshi of Shimane Prefecture, Hon-minoshi of Gifu Prefecture and Hosokawa-shi of Saitama Prefecture - all these handmade techniques use mulberry fibers.
UNESCO's Intangible Culture List is designed to preserve important examples of regional customs and traditions around the world.
Washi paper has played an integral role throughout Japanese culture. Origami is one aspect that is internationally renowned - the art of folding paper requires a specific type of washi paper.
However, the material is used in a variety of artistic pursuits, including sewing, sculpture, printmaking, flower arrangement and clothes dying. It's even used in cuisine, and is required in the frying process of tempura.
The material was also used to make wreaths in the 1998 Winter Olympics, which took place in Nagano,
You can find out more about Washi techniques in the Paper Museum in Tokyo.