For 1,300 years, Japanese paper from the tiny town of Ogawa has fulfilled myriad needs — from the material for Buddhist scriptures to balloon bombs sent to attack the United States. Now, as Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of its defeat in World War II this summer, a new and altogether more peaceful use has been found for it — clothes. ‘Washi’ — literally ‘Japanese paper’ — is traditionally handmade from plant fibres dissolved in water and strained through a bamboo filter. Thanks to its durability, ‘Ogawa-washi’ was long appreciated by holy men, who would use it to copy out their verses, safe in the knowledge that they would survive the tests of time. But in the dark days of global conflict last century, war planners declared that the rough, tough, but light material could be used in Japan’s battle against the United States. People in Ogawa — about 90 kilometres from Tokyo — were set the task of making balloons 10 metres (33 feet) in diameter, which would be filled wit

Read More: Buddhism, bombs and blouses: Japan’s versatile ‘washi’ paper