There’s more to the Tokyo Art Store Guild than Kinokuniya or LoFT. Manila-born stationery connoisseur and content creator Rainbowholic (also known as Kaila) knows the variety of art stores decorating the city better than anyone. Noting Japan’s aesthetic sensibility that ranges from corporate mascot designs to cafes and trains, Rainbowholic explored Tokyo’s colorful art scene that caters to painters, calligraphers, hobbyists and even stationery enthusiasts on the cat theme. Check out some of his favorite spots below:
Tokyo’s first art supply store
Founded in 1887, Bumpodo is the first specialty art store in Japan to manufacture and sell oil-based paints. The imposing Kanda store has eight floors filled with supplies for painting, sculpting, drawing, and stationery, as well as a gallery on the fourth floor dedicated to exhibiting young artists. On the fifth and seventh floors is the Bumpodo School of Art, where beginners to advanced students can learn and create together – for free. “It feels like Sekaido but on another level,” Kaila gushed. “The neighborhood it’s in, Jimbocho, is known for its second-hand bookstores, which gives the store extra appeal. I especially liked Bumpodo’s art postcards because you can’t find them in LoFT.”
For vintage european calligraphy
“I was curious about their custom wax stamps and rubber stamps. The interior of the store has a vintage and medieval vibe. A small shop in Kichijoji, Giovanni offers an abundant collection of quill and glass quills, inks, scrolls and ephemera reminiscent of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. They also sell vintage pieces like an astrolabe and Bolretti sealing stamps.
For cat themed stationery
“This place is the cutest! It’s perfect for cat lovers. With the interior mimicking a mystical forest, Tokotoko tells the story of a cat named Milk, whose collection of trinkets make up the store’s catalog. “They have other cat-themed items, like cat-shaped tea bags. I’ve also tried their cat cafe experience, and it’s good value.”
For Popular Hobinichi Techo Planners
Personal, practical and pretty, Hobinichi’s “Life Books” are in high demand – and often hard to obtain. Luckily, they opened an outlet store in Kanda early last year. “A lot of people ask me where they can buy Hobinichi Techo covers, and I usually recommend this outlet in Kanda or Hobinichi Culture in Shibuya as they are better stocked than the online store or LoFt.” Kaila also filmed the experience of the brand’s Lineup Reveal 2022 event, which is one of the pop-up events the store holds from time to time.
For stationery and other railway themed items
With outlets at Tokyo Station, Atre Kichijoji, and a great museum shop at the Saitama Railway Museum, Kaila calls it a paradise for train enthusiasts or Suica penguin fans. “I’m a big fan of Japanese trains, so I love Trainiart’s washi tapes and collectibles. They also have train stamp books and train line washi tapes with Yamanote-sen, Saikyo-sen and more. Kaila suggests using their articles for travel journaling while exploring Japan.
For the sons
The sounds of Avril’s threads humming steadily on the textile machines fill the Kichijoji and Kyoto branches. “Due to their unique style and superior quality, Avril yarns have become popular in journaling, especially for those who enjoy vintage-style journaling or junk journals.” Sturdy yarns and tools are necessary for any knitting, weaving and accessory enthusiast’s arsenal. Kaila also recommends using their yarns for gift wrapping, rather than regular yarn or lace. The store also sometimes organizes workshops and events.
Yamada Stationery, Store visit
For retro and vintage style items
Located in Mitaka, an area known for its sprawling park, flamboyant architectural sites, and the Ghibli Museum, Yamada Stationery is a compact store with rare finds.
Kaila visited the store and highlighted its section of Kokeshi dolls – brightly painted kitschy wooden toys. “36 Sublo is another store similar to this, where you can find unique stationery and knick-knacks like this soy sauce container style pen!”
Kichijoji paper message
For letter writing articles
Die-cut platinum stars and chiffon pom poms hang overhead as customers browse through Paper Message letter sheets, envelopes and pens. Kaila tells us that Paper Message is known for its seasonal die-cut stationery cards. “It’s a pleasure to inspect their colorful products, which come in distinct artistic styles.” Paper Message can also design personalized keepsakes for weddings and events. Kaila is particularly fond of their paper folders and letter cards with natural patterns, like this one in the shape of a flowerpot.
For fountain pens
Maruzen Marunouchi is one of Japan’s largest bookstores and a must-visit for bibliophiles, designed with the concept of a “book museum”. More than just books, however, it’s also Kaila’s premier destination for fountain pens. They have a collection of over 1,000 fountain pens – imported and local.
For travel journals and leather goods
“For fans of travel diaries! I always enjoy browsing their store, especially their free stamping booth,” says Kaila. Hidden down an alley in Nakameguro, the store sells quirky leather-bound notebooks for those who want something more than just a diary, or to protect their diary on the go. Their covers, ballpoint pens and pencil cases can also be specially engraved after your purchase, and you can have name stamps made – perfect for personal use or as a gift.
A must visit for all art lovers
No Tokyo art store list is complete without Sekaido Shinjuku. Sekaido’s iconic Mona Lisa banners lining its entrance are hard to miss. With five spacious floors featuring creative materials ranging from paintings to postcards, Kaila, who praises the simultaneous practicality and appeal of Japanese stationery, calls Sekaido a must-visit for any art lover. “Even just inside this building, you’ll be tired walking around,” Kaila says. “I like the first floor better because of their greeting cards and their selection of postcards. Their stamp area is also good and has more designs than other LoFT stores.
Learn more about Rainbowholic as she explores the newspaper scene in Japan:
Official website and store