This is a bark steaming hut (kozo moshigoya), among one of the exhibits you can find at the open-air museum, Shikoku Mura. The hipped ridge roof is thatched with reeds. Reeds over bamboo frames are also used for its walls. There is a reason for the huts to be built with reeds. It is plentiful in the region compared to clays. Also, it provided better ventilation.
Tosa (modern day Kochi) was known as one of the best papermaking regions in Japan and this hut came from heart of the region.
The first step to making Japanese paper was to steam the outer bark from the paper mulberry (kozo).
The bamboo barrel that you see hanging in the photo above would be lowered over a bubbling cauldron filled with mulberry branches to form an efficient steam box. Anyways, remember my post about a farm house of the Kono family? They owned a bark steamer too. Right beside their living area!
If you ask me, those bubbling cauldron looked like a torture device. Heh heh
The next step was to remove the white inner bark, pound it into a paste and float it in trays of water to form sheets of paper which were then drained and dried.
Cute photo of son (if I say so myself) for size comparison reason. hihi
Handmade Japanese paper (washi) is famous for its strength and durability. It contains no chemical and as a result it won't discolour or decompose with age.
Way back when, Japanese merchants kept records with the washi and the accounts books can be thrown into a well in case of fire (or if you ask me, to hide precious record from being seized too) and be retrieved later without any damage. How ingenious!
I do seem to go on and on about the exhibits in Shikoku Mura, don't I? Bear with me, please.
I just feel that those exhibits are so interesting on their own that most (if not each) of them deserve a special post about them. Individual or being grouped. Also, learning a bit of background about them makes me appreciate things that I take for granted in modern daily life. Paper in this post. Sugar in previous post.