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

5 Responses to “Trip to Isetatsu, Tokyo”

By Karen Krieger - 8 August 2016 Reply

Drooling over this post. Jealous, jealous, jealous!

By Elissa - 8 August 2016 Reply

Karen –

As long as you don’t drool on my paper, you can feel free to salivate all you like. 🙂


By daria wilber - 8 August 2016 Reply

Oh my word. What a wonderful excursion that was! More, more, more!

By Elissa - 9 August 2016 Reply

Daria –

Oh, you’re getting more. I still have another 10ish posts to go, if you can believe it.


By Amy - 20 August 2016 Reply

Such gorgeous paper…

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