Book binding

Bookbinding excursions in Tokyo, Japan

I’ve written in the past about how travel can be a great source of inspiration for whatever art or craft or hobby that you pursue. Travel exposes you to new ideas, new customs, new perspectives and new ways of doing things.

I was on a trip to Tokyo recently, and as a hobbyist bookbinder, I tried to squeeze in some bookbinding specific activities to get some ideas and generally enjoy Tokyo from a different perspective, through a craft that I’ve come to love and enjoy so much.

If you’re into bookbinding and visiting Tokyo, you might get some ideas from this! I did the following:

  1. Visited a bunch of stationery stores: My intent was to visit small bookbinding stores, but all I could find were stationery stores. I’m sure there are many boutique and artisan bookbinding stores but I quite enjoyed the stationery stores also, I couldn’t really figure out how to find one of a kind bookbinding stores. Here are a few stationery stores that I visited, that I recommend others to visit also if you’re into bookbinding:
    • Itoya: Located in the Ginza neighborhood, this is a large stationery store, with a total of 8 levels! I particularly enjoyed the section that had all kinds of journals, including leather journals, and handcrafted paper including washi paper. I ended up purchasing some of the patterned washi paper for use in my own bookbinding projects 🙂 I recommend a visit to Itoya. See pic of washi paper below!
    • Giovanni’s: A small store in a neighborhood called Kichijoji, Givanni’s sells rare items imported from countries outside Japan, so the items are not necessarily unique to Tokyo. You do see nice thick leather bound journals at the store, so depending upon what you’re looking for, you can give it a shot.
    • Kikokuniya: This is more of a bookstore, so I think you can skip it. They have locations in San Francisco too, so nothing that you cannot find outside Japan.
    • Traveler’s Factory: I loved this tiny little store, located in a neighborhood called “Nakameguro”. The store is filled with all kinds of leather goods for the digital nomad, from journals to book covers to leather balms to leather bags. The store is wooden and has a great earthy vibe to it.
    • Sekaido: A giant art and craft supplies store, it has a bit of a warehouse / Walmart feel to it. Great for supplies if you know what you’re looking for.
    • Tokyu Hands: A DIY store, I think you can go to both Sekaido and Tokyu Hands in one trip to Shinjuku, Tokyo. Again, these stores might give you some inspiration as you’re surrounded with all kinds of supplies.
    • Kyukyodo: A hundreds of years old stationery shop, they used to be the official stationery supplier for the Imperial Palace at some point! Worth a visit, if only to see some beautifully crafted products.
  2. Visited Jimbocho, a neighborhood dedicated to selling old books: Jimbocho is dotted with rows and rows of tiny shops selling used books, old books, and even rare books. I spent an entire afternoon, just walking in and out of these stores, seeing old books bound using traditional Japanese binding methods, and spotting a rare books store where the books were placed behind chains!
  3. Generally paid more attention to how things were packaged: If you spend time in Japan, you quickly see how attention to detail is almost like a “way of life” there. i I loved seeing how little things were packaged in Japan – from green tea to tiny notebooks to washi paper. Great to get some ideas for how you can do your own packaging!

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