What is a Shoji Screen?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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A shoji screen is a wooden frame covered in rice paper or a thick paper made from other natural fibers. Many people associate shoji screens with Japanese d├ęcor and culture, and they are an important part of a traditionally styled Japanese home, along with tatami mats. A number of home design companies sell shoji screens along with other Asian-themed home items. These companies may also offer consultation in Japanese room design for a more authentic look.

A traditional shoji screen is designed like a sliding door, and it is actually built into the framework of a house. Often, many of the walls in a traditional Japanese home are made from shoji screens, so that the rooms are highly configurable. They are also be opened to breezes and sunlight in the warm winter months, while being closed during the cooler winter periods. A home built from shoji screens is also easy to rebuild after an earthquake.

Movable folding screens may also be made in the shoji style. These screens can be used to quickly and easy partition a room or space, and they are folded up when they are not needed. Many Western homes use these folding shoji screens are room accents, rather than building the screens into the framework of the home. The lightweight design of folding shoji screens makes them very easy to move, and they are generally very sturdy once unfolded.


Rice paper is naturally translucent, and this property causes shoji screens to seem to glow when light passes through them. Some exotic variations are made with multicolored paper, or they have painted designs which will also appear to glow with the light. In some cases, a shoji screen may also be made opaque, by using thicker material or layers of paper. The look of a shoji screen can be further altered by the type of wood used, and how it is treated.

When selecting shoji screens for a home, one should certainly consider the type of wood used and the style of paper which covers it. Many firms will make shoji screens to custom order, if you have difficulty finding a screen which meets your needs. It is also, of course, possible to make shoji screens at home, if you are good at construction projects. This may allow you to use nontraditional components for a very distinctive and individual shoji screen.


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