During my time in Kyoto I discovered that the former capital is still very much alive with creative industry, where a marriage of old and new sees modern artisans preserving traditional craft techniques. Kyoto designers are reviving age-old processes and giving them a new context within contemporary design.


The ancient art of Karakami, developed during the Edo period, became one the most revered techniques in Japanese heritage craft. The traditional process, which involves applying surface decoration to handmade washi paper, evolved over centuries as an intrinsic element of Japanese interior design.





Wandering through the charming old textile quarter of Nishijin, I passed rows of typical wooden townhouses, many of which have been converted into studios by local creatives. Among them, the studio and shop of Karakami artisan, Kamisoe.


In Karakami paper panels are printed individually and later combined to complete wall decorations or screens to divide interior space. Designer and owner of Kamisoe, Ko Kado, completes the entire process of dyeing and printing the paper himself in his atelier. Whilst the printing blocks, made of magnolia wood, are expertly carved by local craftsmen to the specifications of his design.










Kado, explained that nowadays he is one of only a handful of Karakami artisans still active in Japan, as modern living leans increasingly towards mass manufacture and off-the shelf interior design solutions.


Having previously studied graphic design in San Francisco during the late 90s and subsequently working in design agencies Ko Kado, grew tired of the digital-centric industry and yearned for a more hands-on approach. He moved back to Japan and resettled in Kyoto, where he became progressively involved in a more artisan way of working.   After honing the technique with master craftsmen over the course of 5 years, Ko Kado launched his own atelier.








The Kamisoe aesthetic contains a distinctly organic flavour, often featuring motifs from the natural world. Kado explains that nature is a big inspiration, whilst showing me a print with linear waves that sings of rippled water and another referencing the marbled texture of granite.

Natural tones form the base of his colour palate, whilst luminescent finishes feature in abundance. The quietly shimmering surfaces are fundamental in reflecting the light within interior spaces.






Other designs are entirely personalised to the client’s specifications. In Japan every household has a symbol, akin to a logo, which represents their family name in visual form. Often times Kado has incorporated this emblem into the pattern making process during custom projects for private residences.






Kamisoe’s designs can be spotted in temples, tea houses and boutique hotels across the country. Whilst they can also be enjoyed on a smaller scale with a range of stationery and prints available at their Nishijin store.





See More at: http://www.kamisoe.com

Kamisoe: 11-1 Murasakino Higashifujinomoricho, Kyoto, 603-8223, Japan

Open 12-6pm (closed Mondays)


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