The Japanese Umbrella – A Decorated Parasol

The Japanese umbrella and the process behind its making is considered an art form, much like many other objects that are considered merely mundane accessories to Westerners.

The Japanese practice of creating these umbrellas, or Wagasa as they are called, began in Gifu City in the Kano district in the 1700s. Spurred on by a feudal lord who wanted to stimulate the local economy, the locals relied on their paper-making skills in order to create artfully designed umbrellas.

During the height of production in the early 20th century, over a million umbrellas were produced each year. When the more modern Western-style umbrella gained popularity due to being more affordable, the production of Wagasa declined heavily and there are currently only a few tens of thousands of umbrellas produced each year.

Only natural materials are used to manufacture a Japanese umbrella and each one requires months of preparation due to being prepared solely by skilled hands. Over a dozen separate craftsmen are involved in the making of just one Wagasa including woodworkers, artists, and paper specialists.

Though most of these umbrellas are meant to shelter their owners from the rain, some are designed as floral-print parasols to provide shade from the sun. Many of these decorated parasols are still used in Japanese ceremonies, weddings, and tea parties.