The Japanese Umbrella - Traditional Style
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 parasol umbrellas.
During the height of production in the early 20th century, over a million Japanese 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 Japanese paper umbrellas 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.
Chinese Paper Umbrella - Traditional Style
Various materials stretched across the bamboo frames include saa paper, which is a Chinese handmade paper, and waterproofed cotton, which is dried to the consistency of paper but retains its water proof qualities so that it is usable as an umbrella. The images painted on the umbrellas are often representative of ancient Chinese lore. They may include Chinese writing, lotus flowers, native birds, or even dragons.
True quality Asian Umbrellas
The art of making parasols and umbrellas originated in ancient China, where they were used as shelter against the sun, not rain, for nobility and for women, who were prized for their pale complexion. The art of umbrella-making quickly spread to Japan and other Asian nations such as Thailand.