Category : Japan

Gocco Manhoru

I recently crossed something off my Book Arts Bucket List – I completed my first Gocco edition! We’re just going to ignore the fact that I’ve had my Gocco since 2008.

So what motivated the project? The Book Arts Guild of Vermont is in the midst of hosting a challenge where participants create an edition of prints, exchange them, and then create a book incorporating the full set of prints. The book has to be completed by May – I’m so thankful that I have two months to get that done.

Since I still seem to be in my post-Japan bliss, I decided to use my trip as inspiration for my print. During my trip, I discovered so many things that added to its unending charm. Among them – manhole covers (a.k.a. manhoru). Yes, this is totally a thing.

Each municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, with different colors, patterns, and themes. According to an article on deMilked, the practice started in an effort to promote the importance of funding sewage projects. Estimates have the number of different manhoru at about 6,000. According to an article on Colossal, the most popular design is trees, followed by landscapes, flowers, and birds.

I really wish I had noticed them sooner, although if I had, I probably would have spent all of my time looking at the ground instead of what was in front of me.

So, now that I’ve given you a lengthy introduction, here’s the Tokyo manhole cover that inspired my edition:

Manhole cover in Tokyo, Japan

I monkeyed with the image in Photoshop until I was able to reduce it to a black and white image. It took a really.long.time. Swearing happened.

Here’s the final image:

Rendering of Japanese manhole cover

As you can see, I took some creative license and eliminated the holes and the writing on the left side. I wanted a uniform image.

Screen burning time! I printed out the image using my laser printer and burned a Gocco screen. Next, I surrounded my image with ink block to help keep the ink from spreading.

Gocco screen with ink block

Ink mixing time! I wanted a dirty bronze color, which required five different inks to achieve.

Mixing Gocco ink

Inking time! Next, I applied the ink to the burned screen…

Inked Gocco screen with ink block

…and slid the screen into my Gocco.

Gocco printing in progress

Printing time! Next thing I know, there were these:

Gocco prints on drying racks

Something weird happened during printing, which caused a very minor smudgy thing. You probably can’t even see it, but I can. Don’t ask me to tell you what I’m talking about because my lips are sealed.

I am thrilled with the results! Due to my total lack of creativity in naming, I settled on naming the edition Manhole.

Gocco print of Japanese manhole cover by Elissa Campbell

Next mission – the swapped book of prints. I’ll be writing about that project when it gets going.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Japanese manhole covers, you’ve got a few options:

  • Check out the book Drainspotting by Remo Camerota
  • View the more than 1,500 photos by S. Morita, THE go-to dude for images of manhoru
  • Visit the website for the Japan Manhole Cover Society (Note: The website is in Japanese and looks sketchy, but it’s totally legit. If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to images of manhole covers, along with information about their locations.)

And lastly, be sure to read book artist Louise Levergneux blog posts about her fascination with manhole covers (she calls them city shields). Her work isn’t just limited to Japan, but has a worldwide focus.

Peace Kannon

I recently completed a book as part of the monthly bookbinding challenge on Instagram called Are You Book Enough? Each month, a theme is chosen and participants create a book incorporating that theme. Bookbinders are encouraged to share their process and final books on Instagram using the tag #areyoubookenough. February’s theme was peace.

It didn’t take long for me to find inspiration. Shocker – it was my trip to Japan.

While staying in Yudanaka, my husband and I wanted to buy cherries before leaving our ryokan. The owner generously offered us a ride. After visiting a farmers market, he surprised us by dropping us off at the Heiwa Kannon Statue of World Peace in DaihiDen Temple.

It is said that the statue has the power to grant one a peaceful life. Inside the inner base of the statue are 33 small golden statues – if you pray at all of the statues, it is as if you have visited and prayed at 33 Japanese temples.

Outside of the temple is a large bell that you ring for world peace and the sound can be heard throughout the town. I rang the bell. It was loud.

Something else I found at the temple were strings of knotted fortunes written on strips of paper called O-mikuji. You can get these fortunes at shrines and temples throughout Japan.

If you get a good fortune, the tradition is to take it home with you and carry it in your wallet – this is to keep the good luck close to you. If your fortune is bad, the custom is to fold it up and tie it to a pine tree, or to designated wires or strings. The belief is that by doing so, you can tie your fortune to that location and delay your bad luck.

O-mikuji near the Heiwa Kannon Statue of World Peace in Yudanaka, Japan

Now that you’ve seen what inspired me, I’ll show you my process. Thankfully, making the book was not nearly as complicated as my last book.

For the cover, I monkeyed with a photo of the bell in Photoshop to simplify it. I printed out the edited image on paper and then glued it to a piece of bookboard.

Gluing flag book covers

The reason why I put the image down first was due to an interesting discovery I made – the bookcloth I purchased at Masumi (Tokyo) was sheerer than I had anticipated. When I glued the bookcloth over a printed image, the image would show through. I loved the effect – very subtle.

Flag book covers

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this was a flag book. The plan was to use O-mikuji for my flags.

Flag book covers and spine

When I was in Kyoto at Kinkaku-ji Temple, I had the opportunity to get my own O-mikuji from a vending machine. I half-expected it to come out in one of those clear plastic ball thingies. It didn’t. Thankfully, I received an “excellent” fortune.

O-mikuji vending machine in Kyoto, Japan

Here’s what it looked like:

O-mikuji

O-mikuji

I searched online for images of bad fortunes so the text in my O-mikuji would be as authentic as possible. I also thought about what personal fortunes I’d like to leave behind to gain inner peace and added in those messages. After gathering twelve different fortunes, I got to work. 

I taped a thin sheet of Unryu to an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper so I could feed it through my laser printer. It worked like a charm.

Printing O-mikuji

Printed and trimmed O-mikuji

After trimming the fortunes, I folded them up and tied them into knots, as if I were tying them to a tree or string at a shrine. 

O-mikuji

After that, I glued them into the book and I was done!

Here’s the finished book – Peace Kannon:

Flag book cover

Back of flag book covers

Flag book with O-mikuji

Flag book with O-mikuji

Flag book with O-mikuji

As this copy of Peace Kannon has deep personal significance for me, it’s not available for purchase. However, I’d love to create a copy of this book just for you!

You can give me up to 12 bad fortunes that you’d like to give away and I’ll create custom O-mikuji for your book’s flags, making your piece one-of-a-kind. Or for a more personalized experience, you can come to my studio in Montpelier to participate in the creation of your book. You’ll fold your own custom O-mikuji and then attach them to the spine of the book – this is intended to replicate the Japanese tradition of attaching O-mikuji to a tree or string.

For more information and/or pricing, please feel free to contact me.

Many thanks to Whitney Aldrich at Axel’s Gallery & Frame Shop for suggesting this idea.

Trip to Papyrus House, Echizen

We started our Echizen paper journey at Papyrus House. It’s kind of a mush of an information center, store, workshop space, and exhibit hall. The building exterior is nondescript and doesn’t come close to indicating what’s inside. You could just walk right by it and never realize it was there.

Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

But holy crap – the interior. Just inside the entrance was this fantastic wall piece composed of folded origami cranes.

Origami artwork at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Artwork composed of origami cranes at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

And then there were these insane pieces hanging from the ceiling – all of them included tons of origami pieces.

Folded paper sculptures at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Folded paper sculptures at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

There was a display that showed the papermaking process and all of the little figures were made of paper.

Papermaking display at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Papermaking display at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

If you feel inspired to create while at Papyrus House, you’re in luck – they’ve got a studio where you can take a quick papermaking workshop.

And if you feel inspired to shop, you’re also in luck – Washidokoro Echizen offers a wide variety of products (fans, books, cards), all made from Japanese paper. 

Gift shop at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Yep – they also sell sheets of paper, many of which were made locally. So.much.paper.

Paper shelves at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Paper shelves at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

Most of the rolled paper you see in the image below cost just ¥100 (less than $1.00 USD)! This is the part where you picture me doing a happy dance.

Rolls of paper at Papyrus House in Echizen, Japan

So some shopping happened.

This sheet of Chiyogami with Samurai dudes was just too fabulous to pass up. It measures 28.25″ x 25.5″ (grain short).

Chiyogami paper with Samurai
Next I selected a few machine-made sheets with different designs. These papers don’t look printed. They seem to have two layers – the bottom sheet is a solid color, while the top sheet is a patterned, light color. I think that the pattern in the top layer is created like a watermark. All of the sheets measure 21.625″ x 31.5″ (grain long).

Machine-made Japanese paper with pink flowers

Machine-made Japanese paper with yellow flowers

Machine-made Japanese paper with blue flowers

The next paper was another machine-made sheet. It’s soft and has a crinkled texture. I’m pretty sure that this sheet is also made from two layers of paper. It measures 21.875″ x 31.5″ (grain long)

Japanese machine-made crinkled paper with peach and cream circles

The next two papers are machine-made and have lovely shiny fibers floating on the surface. This yellow sheet measures 21.875″ x 31.875″ (grain long).

Yellow Japanese machine-made paper with stripes and fibers

Interestingly, the purple sheet isn’t the same size – it measures 21.625″ x 31.75″ (grain long).

Purple Japanese machine-made paper with stripes and fibersThis next sheet is probably my favorite from today – it’s a handmade wood-grained lace paper. It is simply gorgeous – thin, delicate, and floaty. It measures 23.875″ x 35.75″ (grain short).

If you’d like to see how it’s made, check out Awigami Factory’s video. The process is really fascinating.

Japanese wood-grained tissue paper

Japanese wood-grained tissue paper

The next two papers are machine-made papers. They’re crinkled and reversible, which is awesome. Both sheets measure 31″ x 21.625″ (grain long).

Blue and orange reversible Japanese machine-made crinkled paper

Purple and yellow reversible Japanese machine-made crinkled paper

Then came two more crinkled sheets, but each has the same color on both sides.. The brown sheet measures 21.75″ x 32.125″ (grain long). It’s kinda chocolaty.
Brown Japanese crinkled paper

The purple sheet measures 22″ x 31.5″ (grain long).

Purple Japanese solid crinkled paperThe next two sheets are also machine-made, crinkled, and reversible. I love the crisscross pattern of the lines. The patterned side of the paper also has little iridescent flecks on it. Both sheets measure 21.625″ x 31.75″ (grain long).

Green reversible Japanese machine-made crinkled paper with lines

Blue reversible Japanese machine-made crinkled paper with lines

And the last sheet of the day – a brown Katazome paper, screen-printed with assorted symbols. It measures 24.875″ x 38″ (grain short).

Brown Japanese screen printed paper with symbols

If you’d like to check out the place for yourself, here’s the scoop:

  • Address: 8-44 Shinzaike-cho, Echizen City, Fukui (Google Map)
  • Phone: 0778-42-1363
  • Public Transportation: Take a train to JR Takefu Station. After exiting the train, you’ll see the bus stop (sheltered area). Take the Fuku-Tetsu bus for the Nanetsu line (heading towards Akasaka) – it’s about a 20 minute ride. Get off at the Washi-no-Sato stop. Click here to access a map of the area.

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 44

The awesomeness of Echizen

I’m just going to say it – I love Echizen.

View of Echizen, Japan

Yet it has been really hard for me to write this post. I think it’s because the place is just beyond words. Visiting this papermaking village (Washi no Sato) was the absolute highlight of my trip to Japan. 

When I think of my time there, I get overwhelmed by warm fuzzies and my brain turns to mush. And then I get sad. I wonder if I’ll ever get to go back there. I feel a loss for having not having been there longer. I long for the warmth and kindness of the people I met there.

I first became aware of Echizen back in the early 90’s when I worked at Paper Source (back when they actually sold paper). The store carried a variety of papers from the area, but at the time, I didn’t understand that Echizen was a place. I might have thought that it was a brand name (embarrassing). It was later on that I realized that it was an actual location in Japan.

When I started doing research for our trip to Japan and rediscovered Echizen, I knew in my gut that I had to go there. The official village website offers the following as an introduction to the area:

There are now about 70 factories that use either handmade, industrial, or processing methods, with about 500 people working in Washi related jobs in the Imadate area “Goka”.

 

Goka” is called by five villages of the town, Oizu, Iwamoto, Shinzaike, Sadatomo and Otaki, in all together. This area have been producing Japanese paper since 6th century and constitute “Echizen Washi no Sato”.

 

There used to be lots of paper villages every where in Japan, but it is very unusual to see an area like Echizen only making paper through all the year, whereas the others used to make paper only in winter when they didn’t produce rice. As a result, Echizen is one of the largest handmade paper industries in Japan along with Tosa in Kochi and Mino in Gifu Prefectures. 

Echizen, Japan

It amazes me that Echizen played such a vital role in the history of Japanese paper. Its reputation as the producer of fine, high quality paper is well-deserved. Echizen washi was used for printing both the first paper currency in Japan and official court documents. It is believed that Rembrandt used Echizen washi for his etchings.

According to The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries, the area has 26 government recognized Master Craftsmen. On top of that, a number of artisans in Echizen have been certified as Living National Treasures.

So yeah, the place is fantastic.

Aside from papermakers, the village offers several paper-related destinations:

We were lucky enough to be able to visit each of these places, except for the Paper and Culture Museum (me = sad). I’ll share those experiences in future blog posts.

Everywhere you go in Echizen, you can see the influence of paper on the community. We had lunch at a restaurant and handmade paper was all over the place.

Handmade paper wall hanging

Handmade paper wall hanging

Suminagashi and lace paper under glass

And the postal service in Echizen is in on the paper fun too. If you go to the Okamoto post office and ask for fukei-in, the postmaster will hand stamp your letter with a special postmark – it includes an image of the Okamoto Otaki Shrine and a woman making paper. I’m still kicking myself for not sending myself a postcard.

We were lucky enough to have access to bicycles during our stay, so it was easy for us to get around.

Elissa Campbell on a bicycle in Echizen

Yep, I rode around with my paper tube on my back. Getting paper home safely was a priority!

As we rode our bikes, we became more and more aware of what was going on inside the buildings we passed. Sometimes we’d hear the whirring of machinery coming from a building that looked like a residence. Other times things were out in the open.

Paper warehouse

Paper warehouse

Paper warehouse

I know that we didn’t even scratch the surface of what there is to learn about Echizen and its rich papermaking history. If I ever return to Japan (fingers crossed), I’d love to go back there.

I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to photographer Katz Hata, our Echizen host and guide. He was beyond awesome. It was embarrassing just how many times we got lost and he came to our rescue (FYI – Google Maps is not much help in this part of Japan). Without him, we wouldn’t have had such a rich experience.

So, now you want to visit Echizen, right? Go – you won’t regret it.

Here’s the scoop:

  • Address: Google Map
  • Phone: 0778-24-0655 (tourist information about Echizen)
  • Public Transportation: Take a train to JR Takefu Station. After exiting the train, you’ll see the bus stop (sheltered area). Take the Fuku-Tetsu bus for the Nanetsu line (heading towards Akasaka) – it’s about a 20 minute ride. Get off at the Washi-no-Sato stop.

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29 (trust me, that number’s going up)

T.W. Wood Art Camp

I was honored to be asked to speak to the campers at the T.W. Wood Art Camp yesterday. The camp is held every year at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT and lasts for two weeks.

This was my second visit to the camp – I talked to the campers about my work back in 2011.

T.W. Wood Art Camp sign

My visit had two purposes – to talk about my work in the book arts and discuss my recent trip to Japan. I brought a selection of books to share, including artist’s books and models of Japanese bindings. I also brought several sheets of paper that I purchased in Japan – my intention was to teach them about washi and its creative applications (Chiyogami, Shibori, Katazome-shi, etc.).

I set up my display and waited for the kids to arrive…

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

…and then they were there!

I really value the opportunity to educate others about the book arts and to me, it’s especially meaningful to talk to children. It’s so important for them to understand the value of the arts and I appreciate that I get to play a small part in that learning experience.

I started by talking about the first book I ever made when I was in the 2nd grade – The Dog Who Couldn’t Bark. I’m not sure why, but the kids latched on to the story and kept asking if I would read the book to them. At the end of my talk, I held an impromptu story time.

Elissa Campbell talking about handmade books at T.W. Wood Art Camp

The kids asked lots of questions, which I loved. They just don’t hold back, like adults often do. I invited the kids to come up to my display and get a closer look at my work. They quickly swarmed around me and the table – it was a total mob scene, but in a good way.

When they left, here’s what was left of my display:

Display of handmade books and paper at T.W. Wood Art Camp

It may not look like it, but the kids were very respectful of my work when handling it.

Many thanks to the very awesome Martha Fitch for inviting me to speak. Not only is she the T.W. Wood Art Camp Director, but she’s also the Executive Director of the Vermont Crafts Council. The woman is a rock star.

Book and Bed Tokyo

One of the many things I love about Japan is how it skillfully blends the traditional, the modern, and the whimsical. When I researched lodging options in Japan, I decided that I’d do my best to find a range of places to stay that touched on all of these qualities.

When I discovered Book and Bed Tokyo, I knew that it just had to happen.

From their website:

Book And Bed is “an accommodation bookshop”. The perfect setting for a good nights sleep is something you will not find here. There are no comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets. What we do offer is an experience while reading a book (or comic book).

Screw a restful night’s sleep – I’m going to Book and Bed Tokyo!

The hostel is tucked away on the 7th floor of the building. After exiting the elevator, we were deposited into a wicked small check-in room. Even though we saw the door shown below, we somehow weren’t convinced that we were in the right place. 

Entry at Book and Bed Tokyo

Obviously, we were in the right place. After ringing the bell, someone opened the door to assist us.

Please note that if you arrive before the established check-in time (4:00 p.m.) as we did, they won’t let you inside. They will, however, let you leave your bags while you’re out and about (this was much appreciated). After dinner, we returned to the hostel to retire for the evening. We were in!

Check out this awesomeness:

Book and Bed Tokyo

One side of the room is lined with a massive bookcase. Those ladders you see are for accessing the top bunks, which are behind the bookshelves. Oh yes, we slept in the bookcase.

If you’re a couple, you have to split up – one person to a bed, please. They were kind enough to situate us in the same area – I had the top bunk and Chris slept below.

Book and Bed Tokyo

Here’s what the bed looks like:

Bed at Book and Bed Tokyo

As they admitted, there was no lush bedding here. But that’s not the point. The point is that you’re sleeping in a bookcase.

They had a really cool light fixture made of books (sorry for the quality of the photo – the room was on the dark side).

Light fixture at Book and Bed Tokyo

The hostel is less than one year old, having opened in November of 2015. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida of Suppose Design Office. As of their opening date, the bookcases contained approximately 1,700 books (in both Japanese and English) that had been supplied by Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers. I imagine that the book count is higher now.

Before going to sleep, we made a point of spending time on the couches, reading whatever caught our fancy. I found a book that was a guide to doing everything (I can’t remember the title) and funny enough, it had a section on bookbinding. I just can’t escape this stuff.

I can’t say I had a restful night’s sleep – it was a Princess and the Pea thing, but with a futon. But I don’t care. And why? Because I got to sleep in a bookcase.

When you leave, the exit offers you a sweet send-off:

The current nightly rate for a bookshelf bed at Book and Bed Tokyo varies depending on when you stay – we paid about $44.50 per night, per bunk (including taxes). If you’d like to save some money, you can stay in the “bunk room”, which offers basic capsule accommodations without a bookcase. But seriously, the whole point is to sleep in a bookcase.

This video offers a quick tour of the place:

If you’d like to check out Book and Bed Tokyo for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 1-17-7, Lumiere building 7th floor, Nishi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-6914-2914
  • Public Transportation: 5 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station (West Exit)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29

Trip to Isetatsu, Tokyo

Isetatsu was our last paper-related stop in Tokyo, which was good because day three was so.very.long. And I’m pretty sure that my husband was over it. We found the petite shop nestled on a small street – if you didn’t know it was there, you would totally walk by it.

Exterior of Isetatsu, Tokyo

I wanted to know more about Isetatsu, so I got my Nancy Drew on. I discovered that it was established during the Edo period, approximately 150 years ago (wowza). The owners are fifth generation printmakers and they are the only folks still making Edo-style Chiyogami, which is woodblock-printed.

Before today, I’m not sure if I knew that Chiyogami papers were originally block printed. Chiyogami, as I knew it, was screen printed. World = rocked.

The papers in the store were really beautiful and I had never seen ones like these before. I found a section of the store that had smaller sheets and I just fell in love with them. The sign by these papers said that they were machine-printed, but they didn’t look that way. After some back and forth communication with the sales clerk (with translation help from both of our devices), we simultaneously realized that the machine in question was a letterpress. 

I’ve never considered a letterpress as a machine. I’ve always seen it as a mechanical extension of the artist’s hand. Is that weird?

After some deliberation, I picked nine sheets to take home with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but all of those papers were created by the artists at Isetatsu. I came to that conclusion after I found this book: Isetatsu Collection: Traditional Patterns on Japanese Wood-Print Paper by Kaori Saito (ISBN: 4894447703). The book includes images of papers that are among the ones I purchased.

The colors are really vibrant and I love the patterns. The base paper doesn’t feel like any washi I’ve encountered, it’s really smooth. The sheets all measure 10.625″ x 15.5″ (grain long). This size is known as oonishiki-han (27 cm x 38 cm) and is the most common size of Chiyogami.

Blue letterpressed paper with flowers

Pink letterpressed paper with pink flowers and folded cranes

Peach letterpressed paper with red flowers

Green letterpressed paper with white flowers and polka dots

Red letterpressed paper with silver flowers

Blue letterpressed paper with white and yellow flowers

Purple letterpressed paper with white and pink flowers

Green letterpressed paper with flowers

Orange letterpressed paper with flowers

Each sheet has text on its edge – I’m wondering if it establishes Isetatsu as the maker and/or identifies the design.

Orange letterpressed paper with flowers with Japanese writing on the edge

Unfortunately, the sales clerk wouldn’t let me take pictures inside the store (I always ask first). Flickr to the rescue! Check out these pictures by hanakisoi to see the inside of Isetatsu:

To learn more about Isetatsu, read this article from The Japan Times by Yuko Naito: Block-printed Paper Beauty.

If you’re itching to see the shop for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 2-18-9 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3823-1453
  • Public Transportation: Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), exit 1

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 29

Trip to Masumi, Tokyo

It all started with this Instagram post by Steph Rue, a book artist and former Fulbright Junior Researcher. She visited Masumi, a conservation and restoration shop in Tokyo and posted a picture from her visit.

She had me at “Rows of beautiful silk textiles…”

That one post inspired our trek to Masumi on our third day in Tokyo (yes, I’m still on my third day).

Before leaving for Japan, I printed out a picture of the storefront, so I knew exactly what we were looking for. Except that we couldn’t find it. We wandered up and down several quiet, narrow streets, looking for a store that just didn’t seem to exist. Did I mention that we were using Google Maps (and had the address) at the time? Fail.

We were walking on one street for what must have been the third time when we passed a building that caught Chris’ eye. It did not look like my picture, but he said that he thought it was the place. To me, it looked like a residence with a long driveway. It definitely did not look like a business. Nevertheless, I agreed to take to take a look.

We walked toward the building and it was then that I noticed what looked like conservation-ish supplies in a glassed-in room. Hrm…maybe this was the place. I approached a man and told him that I was a bookbinder looking for supplies. He went inside and brought out another man who thankfully, spoke English. He told us that he’d take us over to the shop. Victory!

It turned out that our own personal Superman was none other than Yasushi Yokoo, owner of Masumi.

After an embarrassingly short walk, we were in front of the shop…and it looked just like my picture.

Exterior of Masumi, Tokyo

Holy crap, that place is fantastic!

In one part of the store was a small section packed with conservation tools and supplies. I am sooo kicking myself for not buying a whale bone folder that Yasushi showed to me. It was flexible and felt like plastic. At the very least, I should have taken a picture of it.

There were floor to ceiling wooden shelves containing dozens of types of handmade washi. Want.

Paper shelves at Masumi, Tokyo

Yasushi brought out several types of washi for me to look at, each one amazing for different reasons. One type of washi was no longer being made because no one had learned the papermaker’s methods before he passed – this paper’s tradition and history was basically lost. He said that this was all too common – the younger generation wasn’t interested in the “old way”.

He showed me the thinnest washi I’d ever seen. It was more delicate than onion skin – super floaty. It almost wasn’t there. I can’t believe that he let me touch it. I can still feel it between my fingers.

I also got to see paper that was made specifically for constructing traditional Japanese hanging scrolls. These sheets weren’t the same size as what I’m used to seeing – these were narrow and much longer. I can’t even imagine the size of the papermaking mold that was used to create it. The paper arrives packaged in a beautiful handmade paper wrapper – there’s just so much respect for this art in Japan.
Sheets of handmade paper at Masumi, Tokyo

One side of the store was lined with rolls of gorgeous silks and brocades. I didn’t get a shot of that wall (so many picture fails), but you can see some of the rolls in the upper right-hand corner of the photo above. You can also see some pictures of the fabrics on Masumi’s website. Fabric manufactured specifically for scroll work is called kireji.

I knew that paper-backed fabrics were used in the construction of scrolls, so I assumed that all of the rolls were essentially bookcloth. In reality, the majority of them were not paper-backed at all. Yasushi backs fabric by hand on an as-needed basis when he has to perform scroll work. He typically adds three layers of paper to the back of a piece of fabric. 

I learned that there’s more paste to meets the eye (or nose). For scroll work, Yasushi uses paste that is aged. I had never heard of this before. I found this article from the Journal of the Institute of Conservation that talks about it – it’s called furunori. This wheat starch paste is stored for a period of 8-10 years and as a result, it becomes more malleable. The softness of the paste helps to keep the scroll soft. I totally have a new respect for paste.

Yasushi told me a bit about his work, which includes commissions from a number of museums (several in the United States). He said that he could reproduce any design, on either paper or fabric, provided that he had a big enough sample to work from. He also crafts custom boxes and the rods (jikugi) used to roll/unroll scrolls from the bottom. He can basically do anything – he’s kinda magical.

He spoke about the value of tradition, of doing things the way they had always been done. You could trust it. Things lasted for so many years because they did it in a specific way and continued doing it that way. Why stop doing what works? He showed such love and compassion for his craft – it was very inspiring.

Here’s a picture I did get – it’s me and Mr. Nicest Guy Ever:
Yasushi Yokoo and Elissa Campbell

Towards the end of our visit, he told us that he was hosting an exhibit of cut paper art by Japanese artist Atsumi Yukihiro. Would we be interested in checking it out? Um, hell yeah!

We ascended the stairs, not knowing what to expect. We were not disappointed. Atsumi uses washi for all of her pieces and boy, is she good at it. We were told that she uses a super teeny knife – something like this X-Acto swivel knife.

I couldn’t avoid getting my reflection in the glass when I took these pictures – sorry about that.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

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This piece simply blew my mind.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

This piece incorporated cut magazine pages.

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

Cut paper art by Atsumi Yukihiro

When we finished viewing the exhibit, we went back downstairs and if you can believe it, the exhibiting artist arrived! I gushed like a total fan girl, telling her how wonderful her work was.

No paper was bought at Masumi, but I did get 2 meters of bookcloth. Check out this lovely pale bluish-green:

Roll of Japanese bookcloth

In a nutshell, our trip to Masumi was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Yasushi was just too good to be true. Our visit with him was definitely one of the highlights of our time spent in Japan.

If you’d like to check out the shop for yourself, here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 4-5-2 Sugamo, Toshima-ku Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3918-5401
  • Public Transportation: 7 minute walk from Otsuka Station (Yamanote Line)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 20

Trip to Kinokuniya, Tokyo

As I’ve been writing these posts about my trip to Japan, I’ve become aware of how much it seems like all I did was shop. I assure you, that was not the case. I have to admit that Tokyo was shopping-heavy, but trust me, things changed once I got to Echizen.

After my stressful reunion post-Tokyu Hands, my hubby and I dragged ourselves over to Kinokuniya – a bookstore with books in both Japanese and English. Thankfully, this stop actually held interest for my husband.

Store sign outside of Kinokuniya Tokyo

Kinokuniya not only has stores in Japan, but also in the United States. I’ve been to their stores in San Francisco and Beaverton, OR. I was looking forward to conquering one of their Tokyo locations. My mission – bookbinding books written in Japanese.

Yes, you read that correctly. And no, I don’t speak Japanese.

I do, however, have a small collection of bookbinding books that are written in Japanese. They offer a different visual style than books published in the United States and I like that. They usually offer project directions that are accompanied by clear and easy to follow photos and/or diagrams. You can pretty much do the projects without knowing Japanese. They’re very cool.

So I already had 7 Japanese books in my collection and while traveling, there was no way I’d remember which titles I already owned. The fact was that I had to do some advance preparation for this particular stop on my tour. 

BookBuddy to the rescue! This app allows you to manage your home library on your phone. Under normal circumstances, you can just scan a book’s barcode to add it to your collection. Unfortunately, I had to enter most of my books manually because the app didn’t recognize the barcodes. Good thing there were only 7 books!

Yet another escalator adventure awaited me as I entered Kinokuniya.

Store sign outside of Kinokuniya Tokyo

Once I got to the floor with craft books, I approached the sales counter and showed the clerk one of the book covers I had in BookBuddy. She nodded her head and led me to the area of the store that had the bookbinding books.

Out of curiosity, I scanned the shelf sign using Google Translate and it came up as Miniature Books.

Japanese bookbinding books at Kinokuniya Tokyo

There were about a dozen bookbinding books there and I already owned several of them. I think there were six that I didn’t already own and let me be clear – I wanted ALL of them. The fact is that funds, weight, and space were issues for me (only so much room in the suitcase), so I had to control myself.

After about 30 minutes of deliberating, I finally settled on 4 books. I’m telling you – shopping for Japanese books in person is sooo much better than doing it online. There’s nothing like being able to flip through the pages yourself. Online shopping can be such a crapshoot.

By the way, I’m not writing much about my purchases now because I plan to write detailed reviews of each of these books in the future. Stay tuned!

Here are the books I purchased:

The first half of Handmade Miniature Books focuses on various bookbinding tips and techniques, with clear and easy to understand photos. The second half of the book includes 12 projects. All written content is in Japanese. ISBN: 978-4-88393-630-4.

Handmade Bookmaking offers 8 projects with directions written in Japanese, accompanied by photos and diagrams. It also includes an introduction to tools and materials, and general bookbinding tips. ISBN: 978-4-88393-555-0.

Making Beautiful Handmade Books with Misuzudo: 12-Lesson Bookbinding Textbook starts off with general bookbinding techniques, written in Japanese. 12 projects follow, accompanied by photos and diagrams, and dimensions for all needed supplies. ISBN: 978-4-309-27681-6.

The Enjoyable Guide of Making Miniature Books includes 9 projects, all with directions written in Japanese. It includes photos and diagrams to help you complete each project. ISBN: 978-4-05-800167-7.

I’m so psyched that I found some new books – and they’re direct from Japan. Now that the trip is over, I have to admit that carrying them in my backpack was a major pain (in my back). It was probably a good idea to not buy more than I did.

Buuutttttt…that didn’t stop me from buying 4 rolls of washi tape when I was there. Rationale – rolls of tape are light and small. 

Here’s a rundown of the patterns I bought (from top to bottom):

4 rolls of washi tape

I love love love the roll with the books pattern on it!

If you’d like to visit Kinokuniya, here’s the store I went to:

  • Address: 3-17-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3354-0131
  • Public Transportation: 5 minute walk from Shinjuku Station (Yamanote and Chuo lines, east exit; Marunouchi line, exits B7 and B8; Oedo and Shinjuku lines, exit 1)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 10

Trip to Tokyu Hands, Tokyo

My hubby and I started our second day in Tokyo by visiting the Meiji Jingu Shrine, which was so beautiful – it had a stunning iris garden.

Irises at Meiji Jingu Gardens

Afterwards, we decided to split up – I wanted to check out Tokyu Hands and he wasn’t interested. Can you blame him? Tokyu Hands is considered the craft store in Tokyo. I was going to spend a lot of time in there.

We decided to meet up again at 11:30 a.m. We made sure our phones were in sync and could accept text messages, then off we went.

I had the location of the store pinned on Google Maps, so I followed the directions for what subways to take. When I exited the station, I discovered that the store was not where the map said it would be. I went back to Google Maps and it told me that the store was 40ish minutes away – huh?

So I reset Google Maps to tell me how to get to the store. I finally made it there by 10:30 a.m. I was feeling pretty good about myself for having navigated the subways independently.

When I laid eyes on the store sign I was so happy!

Store sign outside of Tokyu Hands Tokyo

Tokyu Hands is one big ass store. You know you’re in a big ass store when they offer you printed floor guides by the entrance. The first four floors had various household and personal items, like toiletries. It felt very much like a home-focused department store.

I decided to start my journey on the 7th floor – Variety and Hobby Craft. After another episode of multiple escalators, I arrived. I was on a mission to find bookbinding supplies. Thanks to this awesome post by S.T. Leng (a.k.a. Bukurama), I knew what to look for during my search.

The floor was a sprawling collection of everything awesome and I just had to see it all. How could one pass up viewing the Magic props section? Or Physical and Chemical Instruments? It was all good.

I was super-psyched to come across what I’m pretty sure were Dremel bits – at least they were the right size.

Dremel attachments at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

After 20 minutes of wandering, I finally found the bookbinding section. Hello Binding goods!
Binding Goods sign at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

The section was smaller than I had anticipated. It was mostly stocked with the basics – bookboard, bookcloth, glue, and an unusually large selection of repair tapes.

Bookbinding supplies at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

I did find this cool package of headbands – the colors were so much brighter than those I usually encounter. And only ¥500 – that’s under $5.00 USD! 

Bookbinding supplies at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

There were quite a few products here that were offered by this company Book Material. I had never heard of them before. I tried searching for them online, but had no luck. Is anyone familiar with them? They have to be out there somewhere.

Once I was done conquering the 7th floor, I went up to the 8th floor – Stationery. Right at the entrance I was greeted by a massive display of washi tape. So.much.tape. I just circled the display for about 10 minutes, taking in all of the colors and patterns.
Washi tape display at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

Once again, I wandered around the aisles aimlessly, easily distracted by the extensive awesomeness. I ended up in the rubber stamps aisle and found this cool Japanese alphabet set. Have I ever mentioned that I collect alphabet stamps? That’s for another post.
Japanese alphabet stamps at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

It didn’t take long for me to find the paper section. All of their papers were wrapped up in plastic. It made me sad and I was convinced that they were all suffocating.Shelves of handmade papers at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

The selection was small and sadly didn’t have anything that grabbed my attention.

Shelf of Chiyogami papers at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

As I continued my path around the store, I found myself in the Leather handicrafts section. Holy crap, they had an amazing selection of leather – oh, the colors!

Leather display at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

Some of the leather was available precut so you could use it for smaller projects.

Leather display at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

And then there were the exotics…Exotic leather display at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

What kind of leather is that blue one?

Exotic leather at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

And this green one? I wanted it.

Exotic leather display at Tokyu Hands Tokyo

So what did I choose? Nothing!

While I was in love with the leather, I didn’t want to put it in my suitcase and have it get my clothes all stinky. Or carry it on the plane home and have it get the plane all stinky. I’m still dreaming about that green skin…

And in general, what was in my haul from Tokyu Hands? Well, it just wasn’t happening for me that day. I shopped at this fantastic store and walked away with nothing. I can’t explain it.

And as if that wasn’t enough of a bummer, my hubby and I had a nightmare getting reconnected at 11:30 a.m. It turns out that he went to a different store location and for obvious reasons, couldn’t find me there. On top of that, we experienced multiple technology fails. Damn you rented wifi.

It took about 1.5 hours for us to finally find each other. By the way, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Krispy Kreme for offering us a highly visible place to rendezvous. Go donuts.

Drama aside, the store is totally worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. Here’s where I ended up, in case you want to go there:

  • Address: 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-5361-3111
  • Public Transportation: 2 minutes on foot from New South exit of Shinjuku Station

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 10

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