It has been a while since we post because we were on a two week vacation to explore Japan and to visit families in Hanoi, Vietnam. I had a folder full of pictures and so many things in my mind I want to share. At the same time, we had to catch up with orders so I haven’t had time to write a new post until today. This post will talk about the stationery scene in Japan from what we have seen in Tokyo and Kyoto during our trip. Japan impressed me with every single bit and I would love to write another full post about our experience but first off: Its stationery scene deserves a separate entry!
The first thing I can say for sure is the Japanese is serious about stationery. When we think about stationery here in the states, we think about basic school and office supplies like pens and notebooks. Outside of the school and office realm, we have greeting cards, postcards and party supplies. Most of stationery consumers we have are female. Stationery is something often associated with femininity. It’s not at all like this in Japan. Everyone consumes stationery – across all genders, ages, professions. They have stationery products designed specifically to fit everyone’s tastes and needs. And yes, everyone needs stationery. It can be strange to think that in this digital age people can still use notebook, pocket calendar, diary, and write cards, letters, postcards to each other. But people still do that everyday in Japan.
Stationery products are everywhere in Tokyo when we visited. They are inside Family Mart and 7/11 stores, at Muji stores, in the corner shops, in the kiosks at the train stations. Almost all department stores has a stationery section. We visited two department stores with large sections of stationery and also DIY supplies: Loft and Tokyo Hands. It took us several hours to walk these two stores and I was very much impressed with their selection of products.
When we headed to Ito-ya after that, I didn’t expect much because I thought wow it couldn’t get more impressive. And Ito-ya was beyond my imagination. It was mind-blowing. The largest location is in Ginza and it has two buildings! (Let all remind ourselves that Ginza is one of the most expensive real estate in the world.) The main building has 12 floors with the top floors even has a hydroponic garden (!) You can find anything here – floors and floors of card, envelope, calendar, diary, notebook, notepad, stamp, washi tape, origami paper, folder, globe, sticky note, sticker, stapler, ribbon… Many things you don’t even know they exist. I especially adore the fine paper floor. Walls of paper in all colors, patterns and textures that make you feel like you are inside some sort of art installation. Their employees wear gloves to handle the papers like it was in a museum. And as if that wasn’t enough, they have a second building called K.Ito-ya with fix floors full with pens and art supplies. These are old-school fountain pens and they have two floors for them! One floor has “regular” pens and the other has “collection” pens that can cost a few thousands of dollars each. The ink bottles also look so beautiful I thought they were expensive perfumes. When you finally decide to buy something, they will carefully and beautifully wrapped everything in cute bags and packages.
When we headed to Kyoto, the stationery scene was somewhat more subdued compared to Tokyo since they don’t have as many shops and department stores. However, there were many hand-made paper shops that sells gorgeous one-of-kind papers. I just wish my Japanese were better so I could talk to them and ask some questions. Maybe that would be our goal next time!
After our trip to Japan, I didn’t only got inspired but also encouraged. Even though there is a huge difference between Japanese culture and American culture, I hope there will be more people come back to writing letters and sending cards 🙂