One thing I always enjoy about my visits to Japan is seeing what interesting and unique stationery I can come home with. In all my international travels, I’ve never encountered stationery stores like the ones in Japan – it appears to be a bit of a national obsession!
I have two favourite places to pick up paper, pens and suchlike: Tokyu Hands and Loft. And of course, this time round, I got to visit the Traveller’s Factory in Tokyo (see my earlier post for a description of this).
Tokyu Hands doesn’t just sell stationery. In fact, I’m not sure what it doesn’t sell. It’s a chain store and every outlet seems to have at least two floors of paper and stationery, but it also sells excellent luggage, household goods and gadgets. Just my kind of place! These stores seem to be everywhere! And their familiar green logo is easy to spot when out and about. The Tokyu Hands outlet near Shibuya is simply mammoth and very easy to spend a morning in. It also has ‘half floors’ in between the main floors, so it’s very easy to get lost in.
Loft seems to specialise more in paper goods, luggage and travel goods. It’s more like an upmarket office supplies store, with luxury pens, leash-bound notebooks and the like. But it also has a healthy supply of uniquely Japanese paper goods (speciality calendars and planners).
I didn’t have one specific day when I splurged on paper goods, but instead picked things up as and when I spotted them. I did get a little overwhelmed by the choice in Tokyu hands and it ended up being difficult to choose between options. Given sterling has lost so much of its value since our last visit to Japan (thank you, Brexit) I needed to be slightly more careful when how much I was spending on things like this.
To put it in context for you stationery fans: I spotted Filofaxes on sales in the Loft store in Shibuya, Tokyo. The ‘Original A5’ Filofax models go for about £85 in London. This time around, their cost translated into £190. So… I tended to use the calculator on my iPhone while shopping, just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes like that.
So…what did I get?!
I got the above selection on my first morning in Osaka. Some Traveler’s Notebook inserts for my Midori (the lined notebooks with the brown cover and the sketch paper notebooks, with white covers). I’ve never used the latter, but love the fact that the pages are perforated so you can remove and share them.
I also got some (wait for it) washi tape. I’m a bit of a convert in that regard. I used to wonder why anyone would put coloured tape into their organiser or notebook, thinking it was time-consuming and pointless. But I picked up a roll on my last visit to Tokyo as it was covered in Japanese images and actually found it very useful to keep with me while traveling. For sticking in random pieces of paper and photos, but also to cover the edges of more fragile pages or covers. Using a strip of washi tape on the covers also makes it easier to distinguish between otherwise identical notebooks. The rolls I picked up here had little images of Most Fuji, Sumo Wrestlers and ‘Maneki-Neko’ lucky beckoning cat figures.
I spotted a handy little tape-dispenser device for cutting the washi tape neatly, and also a tiny, tiny roll of paper glue (top left in the photo). Both went into my shopping basket at some speed. These, along with the washi tape, were great for adding scraps of paper and momentos to my traveler’s notebook for the trip to Japan and Korea. I’ll write a separate post about that, as it was quite a new thing for me to write so much about my holiday in one of these notebooks
Finally, you can see a very handy multi-pocket folder for loose leaf paper. My days are spent thumbing through reports and reading journal articles while on the move. Folders like this are great for keeping them organised. Honestly, I didn’t need another one – I just liked the colours!
What next? Oh yes. While in Loft in Ginza (it’s a really great one, next door to a massive Muji store), I was almost all shopped out! But in the middle of the Hobonichi Diaries section (which is a stationery cult all of its own!), I spotted these handy little stencils.
Each is about the size of a credit card and light as air, so I can easily pop them into the plastic pocket of my Midori. Very handy for outlining shapes clearly and for drawing straight lines. One thing I seem to do a lot in these notebooks is create mind-maps when I’m planning a new article or designing a workshop or training course for my business. I thought these little stencils could help me keep these mind-maps slightly more organised and easy to decipher, especially when writing on the go. They were a steal and worked out at about a pound each.
I also picked up quite a few A4 plastic pockets from various shops. These seem to be very popular in Japan and come in an amazing array of designs. Being a massive geek, I bought quite a few that were train-themed. No, I’m not a train-spotter, but I loved the design and iconography of the various Shinkansen bullet trains. And I’m a sucker for a metro map, so I bought several different folders featuring train company icons and maps of metros.
The two pockets above represent the Yamanote Line within Tokyo (on the left, in green) with which I am very familiar after all these years, and the entire Tokyo rail transport system on the right. The latter map is spread over four sides of the folder, as it’s so complex. It looks a little ‘busy’ in this photo, but I love it!
Speaking of railways, here’s a photo of the Shinkansen folders I got. I don’t remember which store I bought them, but it was in Akihabara, which is actually known for its technology and gadget stores. Each of the five folder is dedicated to a different Shinkansen model. I’ve taken the photo with them in ‘landscape’ orientation to fit them all in, but they’re actually A4 size.
My final couple of these folders was picked up at the Cup Noodle Museum (yes, there is such a place), down in Yokohama. I loved these because one sets out a nice mission statement of positive, motivational phrases, while the other has a very 1960s kitsch feel. (We didn’t actually visit the museum! We were walking past when I spotted the museum shop and all the various things I thought would be perfect for gifts for people back home. I’m not, in fact, a fan of cup noodles!!).
Above is a photo of the items I picked up when I visited the Traveler’s Factory store in Meguro, Tokyo. In all honesty, I could have bought three or four times more, but it was coming to the end of the holiday and I had spotted just how much I had bought (not just stationery, but gifts for others) and was getting slightly concerned with the weight of our suitcases. And paper is heavy!
So, you can see I got some more notebooks: lined, sketchbooks and another new one for me: the undated diary. This is a neat little design that includes numbered pages, an index at the front of the notebook and undated diary pages throughout. I thought these would be great for work.
I also got some lovely brass paper clips / books marks, some stickers for my folders and a great binder to store used notebooks (bottom left). Finally, Traveler’s Factory has been selling ‘Pan Am’ branded goods for a while. They have a nice retro feel and seem to be pretty popular with customers. Just check out how much their Pan Am stickers are going for on eBay! I got this little cotton bag (just slightly bigger than the notebook) to store my notebook when in my backpack. Yes, it’s already scratched, but I’d prefer to avoid any further damage.
So that’s the summary of my Japanese stationery haul. I could have bought SO much more, but other purchases meant we had four suitcases between us, weighing 23 kilos each. And even a British Airways Gold Card has its limits. So, there wasn’t much more room.
And you know what? Leaving things behind in Japan means I always have an excuse for a return visit!