Oct 16, 2018

Shoji Screens - Japanese room dividers

Do you have a small apartment and would like to divide it into different sections? You can do this with the help of a shoji screen. This is a room divider that is most common with the Japanese. They use shoji doors to separate sections. The westerners have also adapted this style to decorate their homes. You can also conceal a storage area using a shoji sliding door. [caption id="attachment_164" align="alignleft" width="880"] Shoji screens before the windows instead of curtains.[/caption] Their versatility makes people use shoji screens for all kinds of reasons. Some use a shoji door bathroom for privacy while others use it around their workplace to add class and transform the space. It is a creative piece that comes with different kinds of designs. Every home should own a shoji screen to create that special mood and brighten the house. [sc name="AMAZON"]


The Shoji concept originated from China and then was imported by the Japanese in the 8th Century. In both nations, the term means something that can obstruct. During those days, it symbolized anything that could be used to partition a room including a fixed panel or a free-standing screen. In the 12 century, the shoji became something unique to the Japanese. According to them, a shoji represented either a window or a sliding door with paper lining. The Japanese adapted using the shoji to conserve space in a small room since it could slide open instead of swinging, thus occupying less room in a small house. Japanese houses in the past consisted of only one large area without any permanent walls. That is why they thought of the shoji concept to divide the room. The craftsmen who came up with the shoji used a traditional paper known as washi to make the shoji. The shoji paper came from the mulberry tree in Japan which was referred to as the Kozo. It was a scarce paper to find since it was hand-made and natural. By 1960, manufacturers started using chemical and synthetic fiber thus making the shoji paper affordable. Plastic was also used in the making of the shoji. The rough texture of the shoji paper is what increased its popularity since it refracts light accordingly. Though shoji screens were first used in traditional houses, the western style housing also adopted using them. The modern shoji door construction allows it to sit inside the glass window or a door that slides. Shoji screens from China were heavier compared to those from Japan since they were made from bamboo and wood while the Japanese used rice paper to make them. Unlike Japanese shoji screens which are movable, Chinese ones are not designed to be portable. The purposes of the shoji screen in these two countries also differed. In Japan, Shoji screens were sometimes used in tea ceremonies as well as in concerts to form backgrounds and act as enclosures according to the Buddhist rites.

What makes a shoji screen?

The manufacturers of the Japanese shoji door use a translucent material in the door known as the Shoji paper. According to the Japanese tradition, the shoji should be placed on doors and windows. A wooden frame surrounds the shoji screen which consists of connected panels with hinges. A shoji door frame should be solid to increase stability. Though you can easily fold a shoji door, it needs care in handling. It is a light-weight divider that you can slide comfortably. Shoji screens provide a soft glow during summer days to keep a room from the darkness. The paper allows enough light to penetrate since it alters the direction and thickness of the fiber. It controls both the transparency and reflection rate to provide even distribution of light in a room. It, however, does not prevent sound from penetrating between different sections. The door slides smoothly on wood tracks without making weird noises. There are all kinds of shoji door patterns that you can choose from when looking at designs. You can either get a custom or traditional shoji door. Shoji screens also vary in their colors and prints for you to choose the perfect one to match your needs.

How does the sliding system operate?

It is possible for you to build a shoji door if you know how the sliding system operates. A shoji has top rails in between the corner posts to provide ultimate support to the beams. On the floor is a bottom rail which sticks at half an inch. The top rail has a deep groove while the bottom rail contains shallow grooves. The thickness of the shoji interior door is different from that of the grooves. The structure of a shoji door needs only wood and paper. The builders of the shoji door interweave the wood pieces to make them sturdy and strong. They use geometric patterns to stabilize the wood frame and maintain paper tension. Most of us assume that the patterns are only for aesthetic value, but they also increase strength and allow the shoji door to function appropriately. The sliding system allows you to open or close the shoji door using a single finger. The installation of a shoji door or window differs in households in Japan as well as Western countries. Westerners prefer DIY shoji screen doors since they are cost effective and are customizable. You need a shoji door kit for easy installation. If you prefer to make your own shoji door, you should not expose it to conditions such as the rain. Making a shoji door starts with cutting the top and bottom part of the doors for them to slide along their groove. Find the right washi paper from online paper shops as you consider the size of the door. When making your own sliding door panel, you will need to spread the washi paper on the lattice frame. Use some rice glue to roll on the entire frame before rolling the paper on it. Ensure that there are no wrinkles by pulling the paper well in all directions. Take caution not to pull it too hard to avoid dislodging it. Give it enough time for the liquid adhesive to dry before spraying the surface using a mist sprayer. A professional can help you to install the door tracks and provide the necessary tools. The process needs some carpentry techniques which involves taking accurate dimensions when cutting the grooves for you to slot the panels in position. You should smoothen out the track by spreading wax on the floor rail. Your shoji screen does not need wheels, but the correct groove depth and a smooth finish can make it open and close efficiently. You can take the doors from the rails if you want to put them away for large gatherings in the room. The shoji doors are delicate pieces so you must be careful when removing them. Each door has some slight differences, and therefore you should follow the same order you used to remove them when putting them back so that they continue sliding smoothly.

What are the functions of the shoji screen?

Apart from partitioning rooms and making your home appear elegant, shoji screens have other functions. It defines your space and increases privacy in a home that does not have permanent walls. They are also used in tea houses which utilize charcoal since they can act as a heat exchanger or a soundless ventilator. Unlike wooden doors, shoji doors have a paper which contains a microporous structure. The air moves through this structure leaving behind heat, therefore, warming the room. It allows carbon monoxide to get out as it paves the way for oxygen, therefore, you can receive proper air circulation. Shoji homes, therefore, make the home healthy and create a comfortable environment to reside in. Companies in Japan use this ventilation concept to make kitchen fan designs. If one of your family members smokes in the house, you can make a shoji door screen which filters tobacco smoke out so that the other rooms can remain smoke-free. Shoji panels also create a calm environment as they encourage people to maintain soft speech.

Getting the right shoji screen


Ask yourself why you need a shoji screen so that you can find one that fulfills your needs. You could be looking for a shoji closet door to separate your wardrobe area from the rest of the bedroom or one for your bathroom. The market offers different shoji screens for diverse purposes and identifying your need will help you get the right one.


The screen materials of shoji doors are not always the same. You should look for one that is made of high-quality material to ensure that it is durable and sturdy enough. Get an authentic Japanese partition with paper screen reinforced with fiber. Consider a shoji door with glass and bottom wooden panes to increase stability.


The design you choose comes down to personal preference. You can get a simple design or a sophisticated one according to your taste. Colorful prints on shoji doors have an effect of creating a relaxing atmosphere in a home. A lattice design also makes your shoji door look elegant.


The price of shoji door differs due to the features, aesthetics and the make. There are both costly and cheap alternatives. You can get a shoji door even when you are on a tight budget without sacrificing on the quality. Check out shoji doors on different websites and try comparing the costs before buying one. There is also an option of getting separate pieces and making the shoji screen from scratch. They can save you from high costs if you have the skills to make one yourself.


Shoji screens also come in different sizes when it comes to their thickness, height, and length. If you need to divide a room, you should take the dimensions of the space so that you get the right size for your home. Most shoji screens require some assembly when installing them in the target area.


Your shoji screen needs regular maintenance as it is very delicate. You should avoid being rough on it to avoid breaking the lattice. The rice paper used in the making of the shoji door is thin such that you can easily make a hole in it. Conduct shoji door repairs annually to extend its lifespan. For instance, you should change the shoji paper annually. Prime and seal the frame and rail system with paint. Your washi deserves a new look after some time, therefore, consider changing its color. It is important to adopt the habit of not slamming doors if you intend to install a shoji door. Cleaning the shoji screen is the most important part of maintenance. You can use a vacuum cleaner to wipe off the dust from your screen. Use the vacuum cleaner gently on the shoji screen. Use a downward motion to suction dirt from top to bottom. Alternatively, get a brush with soft bristles or a feather duster to wipe the dust off the shoji screen. Have you installed the shoji screen on a window? You need to be cautious about preserving its original color due to sun exposure. You can use shoji sliding door window treatments or lemon juice solution on it. Mix lemon juice and water and then spay it against the shoji screen as you maintain some distance from it. This ensures the color of your rice paper does not change with time. Also, take care of the wooden frame and clean it regularly using a lint-free towel. The wooden part should not come into contact with a lot of water since it can form a stain. Use a wood cleaner to eliminate dust.

Final thoughts

The shoji screen is a concept that has been passed down on a lot of generations. It has not only been accepted in Japan but also all over the world. The natural materials, color, texture as well as high quality of shoji screens are some of the best features that have increased the popularity of these screens. There is no reason why you should not buy one since they can add a dramatic impact on any home.