Trip to Itoya, Tokyo

Welcome to the first of many blog posts documenting my recent trip to Japan. Warning – most of these posts will be long and image-heavy. I took over 1,000 pictures while I was there!

The first paper-related stop on my trip was a store in Tokyo – Itoya. It’s considered one of the best (if not the best) stationery stores in the city. The location I went to is their flagship store and is located in the Ginza district. Ginza = very upscale shopping area (a.k.a. fancy schmancy). 

Thankfully, the store was easy to find – the sign greets you with a ginormous red paper clip.

Store sign outside of Itoya Tokyo

I decided to start the visit off by checking out their current exhibit – Paper & Technique – The World of Katazome and Handmade Washi. Featured work included handmade washi by artist Chiaki Morita and Katazome by artist Kimiko Shiga.

The exhibit was on the 7th floor of the building, so up the escalator I went (and went and went). Most of the exhibit signs were in Japanese (no surprise there). Since I had background knowledge of the making of paper and Katazome, it was easy enough for me to understand the displays.

Papermaking exhibit at Itoya Tokyo

Explanation of the papermaking process

Papermaking exhibit at Itoya Tokyo

Papermaking tools and materials

Right by the Katazome display was a small sign with information about the process (click on the image to enlarge). My husband was happy to see (and read) it.

Katazome exhibit sign at Itoya Tokyo

Katazome exhibit at Itoya Tokyo

Explanation of the Katazome process

Katazome exhibit at Itoya Tokyo

Katazome tools and materials

I appreciated being able to feel Katazome samples at various stages in the process. It’s not often that you get to put your hands on something.

Katazome process samples at Itoya Tokyo

Katazome process samples

Overall, the exhibit offered a nice introduction to the Katazome and washi-making processes. It’s perfect for folks who are new to this kind of work.

Katazome papers on display at Itoya Tokyo

The majority of the 7th floor at Itoya is focused on fine paper. I assumed that this meant decorative paper, but I was wrong – it’s paper intended for design and designers. When you enter the area, you’re greeted by an amazing wall of paper samples.

Wall of paper samples at Itoya Tokyo

As soon as I laid my eyes on the wall, my brain immediately went to How much would it cost to get one of each? Unfortunately, since this was my first paper store, I had to pace myself with purchases – there was so much more paper to be seen (and bought).

Each little section in the wall contains multiple samples of each paper that you can take out and feel (and smell, if you’re into that). 

Wall of paper samples at Itoya Tokyo

You can also check out available papers by flipping through their petite library of sample books. I want a little wood bookshelf for my sample books!

Paper sample books at Itoya Tokyo

Paper sample book at Itoya Tokyo

And there was yet another area of sample books that were larger. These were organized by color and texture – there were names on them like “crispy” and “moist”.

Once you made your paper choices, you had to bring them to the Paper Concierge. Yep, that’s a thing and I want that job. The concierge took my six samples (yes, only six) and pulled full size sheets from the wooden shelves that ran from floor to ceiling. I want those shelves.

Paper shelves at Itoya Tokyo

My first three acquisitions were a light brown/kraft color and the patterns are ever-so-slightly embossed on the surface. These sheets measure approximately 15.5″ x 21.375″ (grain long). They refer to this as yotsugiri size, approximately 540 mm x 390 mm.

Embossed patterned kraft paper

Embossed patterned kraft paper

Embossed patterned kraft paper

The next sheet was a white paper with embedded red threads – it measures approximately 21.5″ x 15.5″ (grain short). Later on in my trip, I found out that this paper is manufactured in Echizen, one of our future travel stops.

White paper with embedded red threads

Then came a bright orange paper with light orange polka dots, measuring approximately 21.375″ x 15.5″ (grain short). This paper brought me back to my days working at Paper Source. We sold it in the mid-nineties and it was called “dotted washi”. LOVE the orange.

Orange dotted washi

The last sheet was a very subtle peach-colored paper with flowery-bursty patterns on it, measuring approximately 21.375″ x 15.5″ (grain short).

Peach-colored paper with white flowers

After I paid for the paper, I went up another escalator to the 8th floor, which was named “Craft”. Then I saw it – a big wall, full of Chiyogami and other Japanese papers. The papers were wrapped around flat cardboard cores in a manner similar to bolts of fabric. None of them were covered in plastic (free range!) – you could touch them as you pleased.

Shelf of Chiyogami papers at Itoya Tokyo

Shelf of Chiyogami papers at Itoya Tokyo

After some exploration, I decided on this lovely pale green sheet of Chiyogami with rabbits and frogs (I loves me some frogs). It measures approximately 37″ x 25.5″ (grain short).

Chiyogami paper with frogs and rabbits

Chiyogami paper with frogs and rabbits

I also bought the first of several Shibori papers encountered on my trip. Each measures 19.375″ x 25″ (grain long).

Shibori paper

Shibori paper

After I finished paper shopping (and did a happy dance), I checked out the rest of the store. They had a small selection of bookbinding tools, including tips for a Japanese screw punch. I was psyched to discover two tip sizes that I didn’t already have – 1.2 mm and 1.8 mm. They are now mine.

Japanese screw punch tips

Overall, Itoya was a nice first stop on my completely unrealistic book arts/paper arts tour through Japan. As a bonus, they had an area where my husband could sit, chill, and monkey with his phone while I shopped. That’s a win.

If you’re interested in checking out the store yourself, here are the details:

  • Address: 2-7-15,Ginza Chuo-ku,Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Phone: 03-3561-8311
  • Public transportation: 5 minute walk from the Ginza subway station on the Ginza line

Total sheets of paper purchased to date: 9

8 Responses to “Trip to Itoya, Tokyo”

By Velma Bolyard - 30 June 2016 Reply

oh, wow, you are one lucky woman. what a wonderful report, thanks AND i love the frogs and rabbits!

By Elissa - 1 July 2016 Reply

Velma –

That sheet of Chiyogami is so wonderful – the images don’t do it justice. If I remember correctly, it also came in a pale yellow, which was also lovely.


By daria wilber - 30 June 2016 Reply


Absolutely and utterly fabulous! I can’t even fathom the Wall-O-Paper Samples. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

By Elissa - 1 July 2016 Reply

Daria –

I think my husband was jealous of the mushy love face I was making at that wall. I just wanted to rub my hands over the whole thing. Good thing I didn’t – they probably would have thrown me out of the store!


By Karen Krieger - 30 June 2016 Reply

Love this post Elissa — next best thing to being there. I particularly appreciate your eye for maker details, like the size of the papers, and the grain. And your restraint is impressive!

By Elissa - 1 July 2016 Reply

Karen –

There were some papers I purchased where the grain determined whether or not I could use them effectively. They were small sheets with printed patterns, so grain was a really important consideration. You’ll see those later. 🙂

As for size, well – we all know that size matters!


By Mary Lee - 1 July 2016 Reply

You are living my dream! Thanks for such great detail and looking forward to more!

By Elissa - 1 July 2016 Reply

Mary Lee –

Thanks! There’s more, trust me. 🙂


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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