Paper manufacturing in Kumamoto developed in the Edo Period thanks to the promotion of new industries by Higo Domain. Mulberry production was prevalent in the area, and washi (Japanese paper) was used to create Yamaga-gasa (umbrellas) and Yamaga-toro (lanterns).
Tesuki-washi, a type of handmade Japanese paper, was made in Yatsushiro under the patronage of the Kato and Hosokawa families. Kumamoto was a leading producer of washi with many manufacturing sites across the prefecture from the Meiji to Showa Periods.
However, with the increasing popularity of western-style paper, washi fell out of use.
Miyaji tesuki-washi, or Miyaji handmade paper, was first made 400 years ago during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period in what is now present-day Yatsushiro City.
To make this paper, mulberry tree bark is soaked in water overnight and then boiled for four hours. It is then beaten with a stick to soften the fibers, and then hibiscus root is added to bind the fibers together.
Kutami uchiwa are paper fans made in Yamaga City. The method of making these fans was brought to Kumamoto by a traveling priest from Shikoku about 400 years ago. The production of paper fans flourished thanks to the abundance of washi paper and bamboo in the area.
The underlying structure of the fan is made from bamboo, paper is stretched over the bamboo, and persimmon juice is used to shellac the paper. Persimmon juice improves the strength of the paper and is also effective as an insect repellent.