"Every wrinkle has to be elaborately made"
March 16, 2017 10:07 AM   Subscribe

It’s thought that oil-paper umbrellas originated in China over 1,000 years ago, but they quickly spread throughout Asia, including to Thailand and Japan (where umbrella culture is a pretty big deal).

Traditionally, oil-paper umbrellas are made from hand-made mulberry paper that is attached to a bamboo frame and then painted and coated with oil for waterproofing. (They open differently than modern umbrellas, but you might have seen a similar structure resting in your drink.)

Lu Yudai has been making oil-paper umbrellas for over 60 years. This young man is continuing his grandfather’s craft partly because he likes the sound an umbrella makes the moment it’s opened. Here's another look at how they’re made.
posted by cellar door (7 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
We used to have these when I was growing up in Malaysia in the seventies. The most common were painted green.
posted by infini at 10:16 AM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unbelievably, I found a photo of them, and even the author says they remind of their childhood
posted by infini at 10:19 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

What a lovely post on a lovely object!

Per the culture link from insidejapantours, do note that while you can leave your wallet on a subway car in Japan and expect to get it back intact, your umbrella is always fair game, and leaving your umbrella in the basket at the door of a kisaten (coffee shop) is a great way to get it stolen. Those umbrella locks are a lifesaver.
posted by erikred at 10:39 AM on March 16, 2017

I have purchased, lost, forgotten and simply stolen more than my fair share of umbrellas in Japan, but a couple of years ago was the first time I ever held a traditional "wagasa". They are heavy.
posted by My Dad at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whoa, that's really interesting, I never stopped to think about the frame mechanism before. (Now I sort-of want to get a kit with all the parts pre-cut so I can construct one to learn it first-hand! Get on it, craft stores!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:37 PM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Very cool! I got to see them being painted in Thailand years ago, but didn't get to see the manufacturing process. One of my prized possessions is a hanging lamp made of two small umbrellas in a clamshell configuration that I picked up on that trip.
posted by calamari kid at 7:36 PM on March 16, 2017

Oh hey, I've got the burgundy monk's version, bought in Burma.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:43 PM on March 16, 2017

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