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Tough Paper

July 2024
1min read

As a student of and writer on hand-papermaking I was delighted with your article on the Japanese paper balloon-bombs of World War II (April/May 1982). I first ran across this story years ago in doing research on the subject of paper. If I remember rightly, one of the balloons drifted as far east as Michigan.

However, your readers who are acquainted only with machine-made paper and newsprint are going to be puzzled that a paper balloon could survive such a rigorous journey. Professor Prioli neglected the aspect that truly made these balloons possible: the quality of Japanese paper. In all probability the balloons were made in large part of sheets of handmade kozo paper, which has an exceptionally long, strong fiber. They may have been put together of the paper used then for shoji screens.

Historically Japan has used paper for many more purposes than Western culture, partly because of the strength and longevity of the various fibers used and the purity of the process. Actually, a paper balloon is one of the less exotic applications the Japanese have devised.

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