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Eco-Friendly and Stylish Newspaper Bags

Many times I find myself with a pile of already read newspapers waiting to be thrown in the recycle bin.  But thanks to Shimanto Newspaper Bag instructor Ayumi Hata, I now have a new, creative use for them.  Shimanto is the name of a river in Kochi Prefecture said to be “The Last Clear Stream in Japan.”  In 2003 local residents sought to preserve it by starting the Shimanto Newspaper Bag initiative, which makes bags out of old newspapers.  This project reflects the “mottainai” concept (avoiding making waste) that is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.

I had the pleasure of working with Hata Sensei who has only been studying newspaper bag making since last summer, but seemed like a seasoned expert.  Her hands have unbelievable dexterity, and she has a great artistic sense as well.  For someone like me who even has trouble making an origami crane, she was a godsend.  Her guidance along each step of the way was a big help, but I found myself surprised that such a beautiful, unique creation could be made so easily.

The materials you need to make the bags are pretty basic.  Besides the obvious newspaper, other essential items are glue (non-chemical), a cutter, rods, a Japanese style can coffee or something similar, scissors, a ruler, a paintbrush and a jar with weight that you can use to press down the creases of your folds. We began by making what would be the handles for the bag.  This involved rolling a sheet of newspaper around the rods before removing them, then rolling the resulting handle around the coffee can to get the curved shape they would eventually have.

The next step is choosing the images you want to be displayed on your bag.  In order for the side you want to show to be featured, you can try to strategically lay out the newspaper.  However, there is a certain degree of mystery as to how it will actually appear at the end, which according to Hata Sensei is the fun of it.  I picked a colorful illustration for the bag’s front, and was then guided through a series of numerous folds and gluing in order to create the bag’s base and sides.  Due to my origami-challenged hands I found this a bit difficult at first, but after a bit of practice I slowly started getting the hang of it.  With the final step of attaching the handles to the bag, I was thrilled to see my creation come to fruition!

—– Reported by Stacy Smith


Shimanto Newspaper Bags will be sold at Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn Botanic Garden on April 26th and 27th.  Hata Sensei will demonstrate how to make the bags on site.
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After putting the rod inside the rolled newspaper and then removing it, the coffee can is then used as a roller to make the bag’s handles.


Your imagination is the limit in designing your bag, but you do have to choose which newspaper section you want to use and strategically arrange it.


With some origami-like folding, the base and sides of the bag are created.  After adding handles, you have a one of a kind finished product!