Japanese stationary is some of the best in the world! If you have ever fallen for a cute washi tape or a bullet journal lay-up, it was probably created (and inspired by) Japanese stationary. While washi tape is the most popular Japanese stationary export, other things like journals, pens, stickers (oh the stickers…) are equally good in Japan. Therefore, the best thing you can do if you are an obsessive hoarder of cute gel pens and sakura flower stickers is to head to some of the best destinations in Japan to qualm paper, pen and general stationary needs.
Itoya is a gold standard for stationary shops worldwide, but in Tokyo, the massive Ginza store is one you won’t want to miss. There are two Itoya stores in Ginza- one is the more general, and the one worth visiting if you are more into stationary, and the other is with limited-edition fountain pens and art supplies, so it’s better for the art fanatic! The main store is split across separate floors, so you have different floors and sections for specialist papers, then pens and fine pens and inks, followed by paper and stickers, general cards and so much more. The best sections of the store for me are the first three floors, where you find cards, then paper, stickers and washi tapes, then pens and inks. There is also quite a good craft section upstairs and a wonderful cafe on the topmost floor which was very empty when we visited (most tourists don’t bother with visiting all the floors). Interestingly enough, the Itoya store also houses a stationary-unrelated secret: if you go up to the topmost floor, there is a highrise food farm that not many people know about. This is a must-see for stationary fanatics!
This small store by no account compares in size to Ginza, but its extensive collection of hand-crafted papers that sit on the left-hand side of the store and their exquisite range of cards and notepapers are worth taking a look at. While the second floor may seem less interesting to those looking to buy the Japanese stereotypical stationary ware, it is a very specialist place when it comes to Japanese incense and lacquered boxes and scroll-paintings, which are also an essential part of Japanese culture. They specialise in traditional Japanese scents for the incense, which is often quite small and in a small rectangular burner. For the best paper in town, this place is definitely the best, bypassing even Itoya if you are looking for real Japanese paper craft.
3. Tokyu Hands
By far the most famous out of the three Tokyo stationary stores is Tokyu Hands, which carries anything your heart desires. The multiple floor layout of the Tokyo store, although confusing, really does give you the best that stationary has to offer. There is a separate floor for pens and more official office items, a separate one for journals and notebooks, and an extensive range of stickers, shaped cut-out hole punches, tape and bookmarks. The Tokyu Hands store is well-worth going to while you are in Tokyo, especially if you are looking for gifts to take back but don’t want to spend too much. The stationary at the shop is amazing and deserves a lot more attention than the reputation that Tokyu Hands is the place to get wacky Japanese items. I have found that their pen section (in particular) is exceptional, and I have found that if Itoya doesn’t have a particular sticker design or washi tape, then Tokyu Hands will often have a very good selection too. Most Japanese stationary comes out in themes depending on the time of year, so make sure that you go seasonally so that you stock up on the essential Japanese seasonal decoration: sakura for spring, water, fish and windchimes for summer, red maple for autumn and snowflakes for winter.
I hope you get a chance to visit some of these amazing stationary stores in Tokyo! I would love to hear if there are some better contenders outside of Japan’s capital.