Shoji Folding Screens

The term Shoji screen is today used in the West to refer to a folding paper screen used as a room divider. Strictly speaking that's not quite accurate; "shoji" referred to the more fixed screens used in walls and windows. The portable folding screens were referred to traditionally as byobu, however the name shoji seems to have stuck for all forms of oriental style screen.

What Are Shoji Screens?

The shoji screen is a traditional Japanese folding room divider. A number of opaque panels are attached lengthways and can be opened or folded concertina fashion. They are usually decorated with a variety of decorative or symbolic designs. Oriental motifs such as dragons, fans and bamboo are popular in the West today. For a more abstract, almost Zen approach plain black squares on a white background are often used.

Shoji are usually found with between three and five panels, however some large versions have up to ten. You can also buy single screen panels which although they don't fold are also known as shoji.

The traditional shoji screen was made from a light wooden frame with a rice paper surface attached. Today modern western versions use a variety of different materials for cost and resilience.

Bedroom Shoji

The original use of a shoji screen was as a draft excluder. Today they're more commonly used as a room divider.

Screens can serve a number of purposes, both decorative and functional. Traditional plain screens can bring a sense of peace and tranquility, or they can be used as direct decoration to enhance the oriental feel of the design. They can also be used to divide off areas of the bedroom according to where they are placed. Even if privacy is not an issue this can be a useful way of blocking off the view of those areas of the bedroom that are less harmonious on the eye.

They can also be used simply to delineate different functional spaces, for example to create functional areas for tasks such as dressing. This can be especially effective when used with appropriate lighting design.