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


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

Tsukiji, Tokyo and Nigiri Basami

For our first few days in Japan, the hubby and I stayed in a business hotel near the Tsukiji fish market. The near century-old Tokyo market is one of the world’s largest fish markets and is likely best known for its tuna auctions.

What? There are tuna auctions?

Why yes, there are. During the wee hours of the morning, big ass bluefin tuna are sold for obscene amounts of money. How obscene? Well, in 2013, someone paid $1.76 million USD for a bluefin weighing in at 489 pounds.

People are permitted to observe the action, but the market only admits 60 people to each of two daily auctions each morning. Needless to say, it’s a tough ticket to get your hands on. Everything I read before our trip indicated that as long as you got to the market by 4:00 a.m., you had a good shot at getting in. And I wanted to see some big ass fish.

Thankfully, we had the jetlag advantage – a 3:00 a.m. wake-up time would be like 2:00 p.m. back in Vermont. If we went to the auction the day after our arrival, we’d have no problem getting up.

And it was easy. Not only were we up on time, but we were frighteningly awake. We got to the market and encountered a guard who gave us the unfortunate news – the auction was already over. It had ended at 2:20 a.m. What? Argh.

The fact was that we weren’t going to attempt it again, as we didn’t want to mess up our sleep schedule for the entire trip. No big ass fish for me. Oh well.

Tsukiji still had its charms, though. The market has two distinct areas – an inner market (wholesale business) and an outer market (restaurants and small shops). Our hotel offered breakfast at the outer market for each night we stayed there. It was so yummy. I would happily eat miso soup every morning.

We didn’t spend much time exploring the outer market until our third day in Tokyo. While trying to find something to eat for lunch, we came across a knife shop. I forgot to take a picture, but Flickr to the rescue! It looked very similar to the one below.

On one of the display tables, I found pairs of Nigiri Basami, traditional Japanese sewing scissors. I was so excited! I had hoped to bring home a souvenir from my trip that I could use in my studio on a daily basis – these scissors were just the ticket.

I approached one of the men in the stall and pointed to the scissors. He picked up the smallest pair, said “sewing scissors”, and told me how much they were. I nodded, then pointed at the next size up. He showed them to me, along with another pair. He recommended one of the two because it had a steel edge (at least that’s what I think he said).

I nodded again and held up three fingers. He looked shocked – I don’t think he was taking me seriously. I handed him my payment and while he went to get change, I started walking into the booth so I could check out the super shiny knives. I was quickly told that I wasn’t allowed in there. Sadness.

No worries – I now had some very cool scissors. They’re made from one continuous piece of steel and there’s no hinge or screw. They work like tweezers in that they have spring action handles. When using them, you hold them in your palm with your fingers positioned near the blades. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to handling them. And not cutting myself.

The clerked wrapped up my scissors in paper and I was psyched to unwrap this gift to myself when I got back home.

Box containing Japanese sewing scissors

This is the box they came in – I guess I’m unboxing now!

Box containing Japanese sewing scissors


Japanese sewing scissors

Japanese sewing scissors

The characters imprinted on the scissors are most likely the name of the maker (sorry I can’t read it).

Japanese sewing scissors

If you’re interested, you can get similar scissors from Talas, except their scissors are called Itokiri. I’m not sure how they’re different from Nigiri Basami.

Please note that once you have a pair, you just want more. And you’ll stupidly search online until you find these and these.

If you’d like to learn more about Nigiri Basami, check out these websites:

And if you’d like to go to the Tsukiji fish market, here’s the scoop:

  • Address: 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3542-1111
  • Public Transportation: Right above Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Line; 5 minute walk from Tsukiji Station on the Hibiya Line; 15 minute walk from the JR Shimbashi line.

FYI: Tsukiji market is moving to the Toyosu district of Tokyo’s Koto Ward in November 2016. If you want to see the market in its current glory, you best be getting over there soon.

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 20

Trip to TAKEO, Tokyo

After my visit to Misuzudo, I descended the stairs and soaked in all that was TAKEO.

Storefront of TAKEO, Tokyo

Storefront of TAKEO, Tokyo

TAKEO was founded in 1899. Their store carries approximately 300 brands, with 9,000-ish specific types of paper. You have to love a store that has a “mission for paper“:

Paper has long played an important role in our society and economy, always present in our surroundings like air or water. As well as its function as a recording medium, paper is appreciated as a beautiful material that adorns and enriches our daily lives with its presence.

Comparing paper to air and water…yes.

The store is a serious vision in white. I felt like I should have taken a shower before entering.

Interior of TAKEO, Tokyo

The interior is just so darn shiny! The walls were lined with numbered drawers, each containing a different paper.

Paper drawers at TAKEO, Tokyo

I wanted to open all of the drawers and look inside them. I’m pretty sure that they would have thrown me out of the store if I did that. Maybe I should have tried doing it after I completed my purchase. Too late now.

Paper drawers at TAKEO, Tokyo

Sign at TAKEO, Tokyo

Thanks to Jill for translating this signage for me. I was wondering about it.

Search by Brand –>
Search by Color and Texture –>
Search by Use (Purpose) –>

Look – it’s another library of sample books! If this set reminds you of the one I saw at Itoya, that’s because in 2015, TAKEO collaborated with Itoya in designing the 7th floor of their Ginza store. The sample books at Itoya are the same as the ones at TAKEO (although the wood bookshelf at Itoya is way cooler).

Paper sample books at TAKEO, Tokyo

TAKEO’s website describes the arrangement of their paper samples as being done by “color gradation”. I’d call it “arrangement by rainbow”.

Interior of TAKEO, Tokyo

Paper sample table at TAKEO, Tokyo

Interior of TAKEO, Tokyo

Paper sample tables at TAKEO, Tokyo

When you find a paper you like, you take the sample card up to the sales counter and a clerk will retrieve your papers for you. The back of each card offers details about the specific paper.

So yeah, I bought some paper there. All papers are available to purchase by the sheet in the A4 size (210 mm x 297 mm, approximately 8.25″ x 11.82″).

In my post about Itoya, I mentioned how the pattern of the three papers that follow were known as “dotted washi” when I worked at Paper Source in the mid-nineties. I have since discovered that it’s actually called Takeo Tamashiki Arare and it’s manufactured at TAKEO’s own mill in Japan. 

I’ve always thought that the paper’s dotted pattern was printed, but it’s not – it’s a watermark. During the papermaking process, a traditional Japanese technique called Sukashi is used, during which designs on the paper mold create areas of pulp that are thinner than the rest of the sheet.

All of these papers are grain long.

Takeo Tamashiki Arare paper made in Japan

Takeo Tamashiki Arare paper made in Japan

It’s hard to tell from this image, but the polka dots on the orange paper are smaller than the ones on the previous two sheets.

Takeo Tamashiki Arare paper made in Japan

Upon examining the next two papers, I decided that the pattern is also a watermark and not printed. Both sheets are grain long.

Machine-made paper from Echizen

Machine-made paper from Echizen

I had a hard time getting decent pictures of the next three papers (grr…). I have no idea how the iridescent pattern is created. On their own, the colors seem really pale, but you can see how they relate to each other in the group shot. All three sheets are grain long.

Machine-made paper from Echizen

Machine-made paper from Echizen

Machine-made paper from Echizen

Machine-made papers from Echizen

I’m pretty sure that the next sheet is made of two layers of pulp and the fibers look like hemp. It’s quite a lovely sheet of paper. Like the other papers, this sheet is grain long.

Machine-made paper from Echizen

The last sheet of paper is known as Tairei and sadly, it’s another one I couldn’t quite capture in a photo. The fibers are silver and the surface of the paper has an overall sparkle to it. The sheet is grain long.

Tairei Black paper with Silver

If you ever visit Tokyo, you must go to TAKEO. I’m afraid I have to insist. Here’s how to get there:

  • Address: 3-18-3 Kanda Nishiki-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3292-3669
  • Public Transportation: 8 minute walk from the Hanzomon Line/Toei Mita Line/Toei Shinjuku Line: Jinbocho Station (exit A9); 8 minute walk from the Tozai Line: Takebashi Station (exit 3B/KKR exit); 8 minute walk from the Chiyoda Line: Shinochanomizu Station/Toei Shinjuku Line: Ogawamachi Station (exit B7); 15 minute walk from the JR Chuo Line/Sobu Line: Ochanomizu Station (Ochanomizubashi exit)

If you can’t get there any time soon, check out the Google Map for TAKEO. On the bottom left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see three photos of the store. If you click on one of them, you can get a 360 degree view of the interior.

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 20

Trip to Misuzudo Bindery showroom, Tokyo

On my third day in Tokyo, the first paper-related stop was Misuzudo Bindery

Based on information I translated from their website, we knew that we were headed to the second floor. Once we got there, we were greeted by a nondescript hallway with lots of doors. I had no idea where to go. We peered into one open door and I spied a tabletop letterpress – that must be the place!

But it wasn’t. Someone came out and told us that we had to go through TAKEO (a store on the first floor) to access the stairwell to Misuzudo Bindery.

We went back downstairs, exited the building, and reentered through the very drool-worthy TAKEO showroom (I’ll be talking about that part of the trip in another post).

Singular in my mission, I headed for the staircase at the back of the store.

Signage for the Misuzudo Store

Up the stairs we went. I was so excited to visit a Japanese bindery!

Except it turned out that it wasn’t a bindery. It was a showroom. The bindery is actually located in Nagano.

[insert letdown here]

Yep, I was bummed, but I was determined to make the best of it and started exploring the showroom.

The space was huge – very white and very sparse. White tables and benches occupied the center of the room and the walls were lined with shelves. One side of the room housed handmade books, bookbinding tools, and other related items. The other side of the room had a display of assorted publications. 

I later learned that Misuzudo only occupies part of the space – TAKEO manages the rest of it, hosting exhibitions related to the themes of paper and design. Misuzudo offers bookbinding workshops there on an irregular basis.

At this point I should mention that in preparation for my trip, I printed out some sentences that I wanted to be able to say in Japanese. I used Google Translate to do it. Were the translations accurate? Who knows – I just hoped for the best.

Here’s an example:

Japanese translation of "I am a bookbinder."

Among my other translations:

  • I love paper.
  • I have been making books for 21 years.
  • Thank you for your hospitality.
  • I have a dog named Wiggum. He is a standard poodle. (that one proved useless)

And now, back to Misuzudo. A sales clerk came up to me and started speaking Japanese. I pulled out my page of translations and slowly told her that I was a bookbinder. Her eyes lit up!

For the next 20 minutes, she spoke quickly in Japanese, motioning with her hands and demonstrating how to use the different tools. And you know what? I understood what she was talking about. 

It seems that bookbinding is totally its own language. We discussed the perfect binding and how a letterpress had been used for some of their products. For the few times we got stuck, my hubby would use the Google Translate app on his phone to help us along. 

It was amazing. Seriously – I can’t put into words just how fulfilling that experience was for me. The clerk was such a sweetheart and a trooper for working through the language barrier.

I decided to take home this nifty bamboo folder (like this one at Washi Arts). It’s pretty solid, 5/16″ at its thickest point:

Bamboo folder

Bamboo folder

I also picked up these sweet letterpressed buttons (get them for yourself):

Letterpressed buttons by Kazui Press

Oh, and against my better judgment, I bought another book:

This book, written by Misuzudo, is updated from an earlier version. It immediately dives into one of twelve projects, which include both books and other enclosures. Instructions (in Japanese) are accompanied by photos and diagrams. Dimensions for all supplies are noted. At the end of the book is an overview of tools and materials, and general bookbinding tips. ISBN: 978-4-309-27682-3.

Note: You may have noticed how few photos are included in this post. That’s because I got so caught up in my discussion with the sales clerk that I forgot to take pictures (grrrr…). Luckily, you can see a picture of the showroom here (it’s the third picture in the slideshow).

If you’d like to visit the Misuzudo showroom yourself, here’s where it is and how to get there:

  • Address: 3-18-3 Kanda Nishiki-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-5282-3265
  • Public Transportation: 8 minute walk from the Hanzomon Line/Toei Mita Line/Toei Shinjuku Line: Jinbocho Station (exit A9); 8 minute walk from the Tozai Line: Takebashi Station (exit 3B/KKR exit); 8 minute walk from the Chiyoda Line: Shinochanomizu Station/Toei Shinjuku Line: Ogawamachi Station (exit B7); 15 minute walk from the JR Chuo Line/Sobu Line: Ochanomizu Station (Ochanomizubashi exit)

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 10

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

Trip to Kyukyodo, Tokyo

The second paper-related stop on my trip to Japan was also in Tokyo’s Ginza district – Kyukyodo. Its neighbors included Tiffany’s and Harry Winston. I was definitely out of my element – fanny packs are simply not fashionable.

Interestingly, the store was founded in Kyoto in 1663 and began as a medicine shop. The Tokyo location was established in 1880.

I didn’t mention this in my last post, but something I did to prepare for my trip was to print out pictures of the storefronts on our itinerary. I was able to find the images on travel blogs and business websites. We fully expected that the majority of the store signs we encountered would be written in Japanese – with the photos, we figured that we’d have an easier time finding our destinations.

It worked like a charm.

Luckily, it was easy to find Kyukyodo as its sign was in English (and its entryway was hard to miss).

Store sign outside of Kyukyodo Tokyo

I have to admit that Itoya was a tough act for Kyukyodo to follow. Sadly, I didn’t have that sense of ooohhhh when I entered the store. It was mostly focused on stationery with one wall devoted to papers.

Shelves of Chiyogami papers at Kyukyodo Tokyo

Now don’t get me wrong – that wall was spectacular. It’s just that the place was mobbed and I had a hard time getting access to the papers. And I was tired and cranky. And, well, Itoya.

Shelves of Chiyogami papers at Kyukyodo Tokyo

Their selection mostly consisted of Chiyogami papers and they were patterns that I had seen before. I finally found one that was new to me and it just made me happy – a pearlized paper with fluorescent reddish-pink and blue goldfish on it. It measures approximately 37″ x 25.5″ (grain short).

White pearlized Chiyogami paper with red and blue goldfish

Now it’s mine. Just look at it…it’s so sweet!

White pearlized Chiyogami paper with red and blue goldfish

I was in the store for no more than 10 minutes, which made my hubby happy. Unfortunately, I never made it upstairs, which apparently has lots of calligraphy supplies. I’m bummed about not having gone up there, but the fact is that I had hit the wall and was shopping fried.

And on my first day – for shame! I’m not as tough as I thought I was.

If you’re interested in checking out the store yourself, here are the details:

  • Address: 5-7-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3571-4429
  • Public transportation: Ginza Station (Ginza, Hibiya, Marunouchi lines), exit A2

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 10

Trip to Itoya, Tokyo

Welcome to the first of many blog posts documenting my recent trip to Japan. Warning – most of these posts will be long and image-heavy. I took over 1,000 pictures while I was there!

The first paper-related stop on my trip was a store in Tokyo – Itoya. It’s considered one of the best (if not the best) stationery stores in the city. The location I went to is their flagship store and is located in the Ginza district. Ginza = very upscale shopping area (a.k.a. fancy schmancy). 

Thankfully, the store was easy to find – the sign greets you with a ginormous red paper clip.

Store sign outside of Itoya Tokyo

I decided to start the visit off by checking out their current exhibit – Paper & Technique – The World of Katazome and Handmade Washi. Featured work included handmade washi by artist Chiaki Morita and Katazome by artist Kimiko Shiga.

The exhibit was on the 7th floor of the building, so up the escalator I went (and went and went). Most of the exhibit signs were in Japanese (no surprise there). Since I had background knowledge of the making of paper and Katazome, it was easy enough for me to understand the displays.

Right by the Katazome display was a small sign with information about the process (click on the image to enlarge). My husband was happy to see (and read) it.

Katazome exhibit sign at Itoya Tokyo

I appreciated being able to feel Katazome samples at various stages in the process. It’s not often that you get to put your hands on something.

Overall, the exhibit offered a nice introduction to the Katazome and washi-making processes. It’s perfect for folks who are new to this kind of work.

Katazome papers on display at Itoya Tokyo

The majority of the 7th floor at Itoya is focused on fine paper. I assumed that this meant decorative paper, but I was wrong – it’s paper intended for design and designers. When you enter the area, you’re greeted by an amazing wall of paper samples.

Wall of paper samples at Itoya Tokyo

As soon as I laid my eyes on the wall, my brain immediately went to How much would it cost to get one of each? Unfortunately, since this was my first paper store, I had to pace myself with purchases – there was so much more paper to be seen (and bought).

Each little section in the wall contains multiple samples of each paper that you can take out and feel (and smell, if you’re into that). 

Wall of paper samples at Itoya Tokyo

You can also check out available papers by flipping through their petite library of sample books. I want a little wood bookshelf for my sample books!

Paper sample books at Itoya Tokyo

Paper sample book at Itoya Tokyo

And there was yet another area of sample books that were larger. These were organized by color and texture – there were names on them like “crispy” and “moist”.

Once you made your paper choices, you had to bring them to the Paper Concierge. Yep, that’s a thing and I want that job. The concierge took my six samples (yes, only six) and pulled full size sheets from the wooden shelves that ran from floor to ceiling. I want those shelves.

Paper shelves at Itoya Tokyo

My first three acquisitions were a light brown/kraft color and the patterns are ever-so-slightly embossed on the surface. These sheets measure approximately 15.5″ x 21.375″ (grain long). They refer to this as yotsugiri size, approximately 540 mm x 390 mm.

Embossed patterned kraft paper

Embossed patterned kraft paper

Embossed patterned kraft paper

The next sheet was a white paper with embedded red threads – it measures approximately 21.5″ x 15.5″ (grain short). Later on in my trip, I found out that this paper is manufactured in Echizen, one of our future travel stops.

White paper with embedded red threads

Then came a bright orange paper with light orange polka dots, measuring approximately 21.375″ x 15.5″ (grain short). This paper brought me back to my days working at Paper Source. We sold it in the mid-nineties and it was called “dotted washi”. LOVE the orange.

Orange dotted washi

The last sheet was a very subtle peach-colored paper with flowery-bursty patterns on it, measuring approximately 21.375″ x 15.5″ (grain short).

Peach-colored paper with white flowers

After I paid for the paper, I went up another escalator to the 8th floor, which was named “Craft”. Then I saw it – a big wall, full of Chiyogami and other Japanese papers. The papers were wrapped around flat cardboard cores in a manner similar to bolts of fabric. None of them were covered in plastic (free range!) – you could touch them as you pleased.

Shelf of Chiyogami papers at Itoya Tokyo

Shelf of Chiyogami papers at Itoya Tokyo

After some exploration, I decided on this lovely pale green sheet of Chiyogami with rabbits and frogs (I loves me some frogs). It measures approximately 37″ x 25.5″ (grain short).

Chiyogami paper with frogs and rabbits

Chiyogami paper with frogs and rabbits

I also bought the first of several Shibori papers encountered on my trip. Each measures 19.375″ x 25″ (grain long).

Shibori paper

Shibori paper

After I finished paper shopping (and did a happy dance), I checked out the rest of the store. They had a small selection of bookbinding tools, including tips for a Japanese screw punch. I was psyched to discover two tip sizes that I didn’t already have – 1.2 mm and 1.8 mm. They are now mine.

Japanese screw punch tips

Overall, Itoya was a nice first stop on my completely unrealistic book arts/paper arts tour through Japan. As a bonus, they had an area where my husband could sit, chill, and monkey with his phone while I shopped. That’s a win.

If you’re interested in checking out the store yourself, here are the details:

  • Address: 2-7-15,Ginza Chuo-ku,Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3561-8311
  • Public transportation: 5 minute walk from the Ginza subway station on the Ginza line

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 9


Shelves of handmade papers at Kamiji Kakimoto, Kyoto

So I just got back from Japan yesterday.

Sorry that I wasn’t more up front about the timing of my trip. I’m one of those people who isn’t comfortable revealing travel plans online, especially when my house is being left unoccupied. It’s tough for me to exist in that intersection of social media and safety.

I spent a lot of my trip fighting the urge to post pictures on Instagram.

That said, I have so much to share with you.

I loved Japan. It’s that simple. The place is magical. The people are beyond friendly (and polite and kind and generous).

I’ve got at least a dozen blog posts cued up. This is going to be an extensive blog journey.

At this point, I have to admit that I suck at history. I wish I were one of those people who remembers the specifics of how things happened and why. The fact is that when it comes to some of the details about my trip, I going to have to do research.

What I can say is that I’m great at remembering how things felt. I really hope to convey the sense of excitement and how full my heart was when visiting Japan. The love I now have for this country runs deep.

So let’s start here – my itinerary of craziness.

Yeah, that list was completely unrealistic (but I already knew that). My poor husband spent way too much time sitting on chairs, looking at his phone while I shopped. To tip the scales, he did rope me into one especially evil hike, so I consider us even.

Here’s the recap of what did happen:




My blog posts will be written in the order in which we visited each location (Tokyo > Echizen > Kyoto).

By the way, if you’re interested in having your own Japanese experience, feel free to contact me about any of the places I’ve been. I’m more than happy to give you the specifics of where we slept, what we ate, and who we met. My itinerary is totally accessible, I have no secrets.

Welcome to my adventure!

Introduction to Miniature Books: Including Materials to Make Them Now

Japanese bookbinding book: Introduction to Miniature Books - Including Materials to Make Them Now

Welcome to my fifth post in my series of Japanese bookbinding book reviews.

I bought this book back in at the Kinokuniya in Beaverton, OR (near Portland). I was in town for the Focus on Book Arts conference and thought I’d swing by the store on my way there.

If you decide to check out the bookstore, please note that it’s located inside the Uwajimaya Asian Food Market – it’s really weird.

Title: Introduction to Miniature Books: Including Materials to Make Them Now (many thanks to Jill for the translation)
Author: Misuzudo Bindery
ISBN: 978-4-7661-2474-3
Publisher:  Graphics, Inc.
Year published: 2013
Paperback: 47 pages

This book reads left-to-right.

Let me start off by saying that this book is way cool for the following reason – it includes all of the project materials you need in a box that’s built into the back cover. This is super-awesome because you don’t have to cut up the pages of the book. Hooray! 

The design of this book is really clever.

Japanese bookbinding manual with built-in box for supplies

The stash of materials even includes mull!

Japanese bookbinding manual with built-in box for supplies

Let’s check out the content of the book. Pages 6-7 show images of which of the included materials you need to complete each project (click on the images to enlarge).

Pages 8-10 cover things such as basic bookbinding tools, the parts of a book, how to glue out paper, and paper grain.

Pages 11-46 focus on four book projects. The images that follow show the progression of content for each project.

Each section starts with an image of a book:

The top of the next page identifies which included materials you need to complete the project (including measurements) and the bottom half includes the beginning of the directions on how to create the book:

Page 47 offers information about the author’s studio, as well as a paper store (TAKEO) that is located in the same building.

Overall impressions:

One of my biggest peeves about bookbinding manuals is when you’re required to cut up the book in order to complete projects. I like my books in one piece, thank you. The design of this book addresses this issue in the most fabulous manner – all the materials you need are housed within the book structure. You get to work on the featured projects without destroying your book in the process – genius!

A beginner shouldn’t have any trouble completing the projects in this book. The photos and diagrams in the directions are clear and easy to follow. The techniques learned from this book can be easily translated into future work. Please note that specific project measurements in provided in millimeters. You can use an online conversion calculator to get the non-metric equivalents. 

Even though this book is more appropriate for those just starting out in the book arts, I’m still glad I purchased it. I’m so impressed with the overall presentation of the material and how all of the supplies are provided to you. The book would make a great gift. For you.

If you’re interested in buying your own copy, you can get it from the following online shops:

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