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) would know better than anyone else the variety of art stores decorating the city. Noticing Japan’s aesthetic sensitivity that extends from designs of company mascots to cafes and trains, Rainbowholic has been exploring Tokyo’s colorful art scene that caters to painters, calligraphers, hobbyists and even cat-themed-stationary enthusiasts. Find some of her favorite spots below:
Tokyo’s first art supplies store
Founded in 1887, Bumpodo is Japan’s first specialty art store to manufacture and sell oil-based paints. The towering Kanda store has eight floors replete with supplies for painting, sculpting, drawing and stationery, as well as a gallery on the fourth floor devoted to exhibiting young artists. On the fifth and seventh floors is Bumpodo’s art school, where beginner to advanced students can learn and create together — free of charge. “It feels like Sekaido but on another level,” Kaila gushes. “The neighborhood it’s in, Jimbocho, is known for used bookstores — which gives the store added appeal. I particularly liked Bumpodo’s art postcards because you can’t find those in LoFT.”
For vintage European calligraphy
“I was curious about their custom-seal wax stamps and rubber stamps. The store’s interior has a vintage, medieval kind of vibe.” A small shop in Kichijoji, Giovanni features an abundant collection of quill and glass pens, inks, parchments and ephemera recalling the Renaissance and Baroque ages. They also sell period 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 emulating a mystical forest, Tokotoko tells the story of a cat named Milk, whose collection of knickknacks make up the store’s catalog. “They have other cat-themed items like cat-shaped tea packs. I’ve also tried their cat cafe experience, and it’s a bang for your buck.”
For the popular Hobinichi Techo Planners
Personal, practical and pretty, the Hobinichi ‘Life Books’ are high in demand — and often difficult to snag a copy of. Thankfully, 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 because they’re better stocked compared to the online store or LoFt.” Kaila also filmed the experience of the brand’s 2022 Lineup Reveal Event, which are among the pop-up events the store holds from time to time.
For railway-themed stationery and other goods
With outlets in Tokyo Station, Atre Kichijoji and a stunning museum store in Saitama’s Railway Museum, Kaila calls this a paradise for train buffs 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 notebooks and train line washi tapes featuring Yamanote-sen, Saikyo-sen and more.” Kaila suggests using their items for travel journaling while one explores Japan.
The sounds of Avril’s yarns whirring steadily on textile machines fill the Kichijoji and Kyoto branches. “Because of their unique style and premium quality, Avril yarns have become popular in journaling, especially for those who are into vintage-style journaling or junk journals.” Sturdy yarns and tools are necessary for any knitting, weaving and accessory-making hobbyist’s arsenal. Kaila recommends using their yarns for gift-wrapping too, rather than regular threads or lace. The store also sometimes holds workshops and events.
For retro and vintage-style goods
Located in Mitaka, a neighborhood known for its sprawling park, flamboyant architectural spots and the Ghibli Museum, Yamada Stationery is a compact store boasting some rare finds.
Kaila toured the store and highlighted their section of Kokeshi dolls — kitsch wooden toys painted in vibrant colors. “36 Sublo is another store similar to this, where you can find unique stationery and knick-knacks like this soy sauce container-style pen!”
For letter-writing items
Cut-out platinum stars and chiffon pom-poms hang overhead as customers scan through Paper Message’s letter sheets, envelopes and pens. Kaila tells us that Paper Message is known for its seasonal die-cut stationery cards. “It’s a delight to inspect their colorful wares, which come in distinct art styles.” Paper Message can also design personalized memorabilia for weddings and events. Kaila particularly enjoys their nature-patterned paper files and letter cards, like these flower pot-shaped ones.
For fountain pens
Maruzen Marunouchi is one of Japan’s largest bookstores and a go-to for bibliophiles, designed with the concept of a “Book Museum.” More than just books, however, it is also Kaila’s top destination for fountain pens. They have a collection of over 1,000 fountain pens — both imported and local.
For travel journals and leather goods
“For traveler notebook fans! I always enjoy browsing through their store, especially their free stamping booth,” Kaila says. Hidden in a back alley of Nakameguro, the store sells original leather-bound notebooks for those wanting something more than a simple journal, or for protecting your diary as you travel around. Their covers, ballpoint pens and pencil cases can also be specially engraved after you make your purchase, and you can have named stamps made — perfect for personal use or as a gift.
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 boasting creative materials from paints to postcards, Kaila, who praises the simultaneous practicality and attractiveness of Japanese stationery, calls Sekaido a must-visit for any art lover. “Even just within this building, you’ll get tired from wandering around,” Kaila says. “I like the first floor best because of their greeting cards and postcard selection. Their stamp area is good too, and has more designs than other LoFT stores.”