Kaishi (Japanese tissue) (懐紙)

Kaishi (Japanese tissue)
This is one of the Japanese tea ceremony requisites. This section describes details of this.

This is a term used in Japanese calligraphy history studies, and it refers to paper that Imperial family members and nobles used to make clean copies of their poems according to certain rules at poem parties. In addition to waka-kaishi (kaishi used for writing 31-syllable Japanese poems), there is another type of kaishi called shi-kaishi (literally, "poem kaishi"), on which Chinese poems are written.

Kaishi, also pronounced as futokoro-gami, is double-folded traditional Japanese paper, and its size is small enough to carry in a pocket. It dates back to the Heian period when nobles used it for various purposes, and it is occasionally used as a kimono accessory or as paper napkins during a Japanese style meal.

This section focuses on and describes kaishi which is used for the Japanese tea ceremony.

Uses of kaishi

Kaishi is used for various purposes in the Japanese tea ceremony, and the following are the main purposes of use.

As a plate

Guests at a tea party use kaishi as a plate for individual servings when the host serves omogashi (moist sweets) and higashi (dry sweets). When they use kaishi as a plate, they place a sheaf of folded kaishi making sure its folded part comes to the front side, and they use the top right or the top left of the paper to clean off their chopsticks after eating the sweets. Once they finish eating the sweets, they turn over only one piece of kaishi and put the rest of the kaishi into the inside of the front flap of kimono or a sleeve of kimono, being careful not to spill powder of the sweets.

Cleaning off

At a usucha (thin tea) party, people clean off the lip of a tea bowl with their fingers after finishing the tea, and then they take kaishi from the inside of the front flap of the kimono in order to wipe their fingers with it. At a koicha (thick tea) party, people directly use kaishi or a special cloth (or a piece of paper) called kojakin to clean off the lip of a tea bowl.


If served sweets are left at a tea ceremony, guests can use kaishi to wrap the leftovers and put them into the inside of the front flap of kimono or a sleeve of kimono.

Types of kaishi

Men's kaishi is approximately 20.6 centimeters by 17.5 centimeters, and women's kaishi is generally 17.5 centimeters by 14.5 centimeters. Kaishi of either of these sizes is called hon-kaishi (proper kaishi). Although there are various colors and patterns used for kaishi, most of men's kaishi is solid white, and fewer shops deal in colorful and patterned kaishi for men, as compared to women's kaishi.

Kaishi whose one side is bag-shaped is also available, and this type of kaishi is useful to wrap leftovers of sweets and carry them back. Moist sweets are served in many tea ceremony parties from spring through autumn, and the moisture of such sweets may run through regular kaishi. In such a case, people prepare a pile of some pieces of thin paper called tracing paper or use special water-resistant kaishi.

How to bring kaishi

The host of a tea ceremony party does not provide kaishi because it is used mainly by guests, and basically, the guests should put kaishi and other required items into a fukusa basami (pouch for a silk wrapping cloth and other small items used for the tea ceremony), which is also called kaishi ire (literally, "kaishi pouch"), and bring it to the tea ceremony party. In case of their not having any kaishi, reception clerks may prepare some kaishi and kuromoji (picks for sweets) upon request. Also, such guests can ask another guest to give them some kaishi.

In addition, guests usually do not have to bring kaishi when they participate in an oyose tea party (a tea ceremony party with a large number of attendants) which is held for ordinary tea fans. In such a case, a single piece of paper on which the name of a kashitsukasa (sweets' maker) is printed is sometimes used as well as hon-kaishi. This type of paper is also regarded as kaishi in a broad sense.

[Original Japanese]