2024 Japan Trip Part Four: Tokyo Exploration

Aside from meeting with vendors, we had set aside some time to explore in Tokyo. Here are some of the great stores we saw, and a few other highlights.


Although we carry a few of Cohana's items, we weren't sure if we'd be able to make it to their store. We rushed over shortly before it closed, and were able to browse their collection of beautifully handcrafted sewing tools and stationery. Additionally, Cohana's Sakura Sewing Kit and Mini Scissors had just launched, and wasn't available through our distributor. We were so thrilled to be able to see them and order a few for The Paper Mouse!

Mini sewing kits
So glad to have made it!
Beautiful pincushions


Kuusoogai was opened in 2016 by sisters Noriko and Yuki Nishimura. Its assortment of products feature Noriko's artwork of imaginary cities and whimsical technology. In addition to more common items like prints and stickers, the store also had kits for making your own matchbox-sized dioramas. We were charmed and inspired.

Pigment Tokyo

There was a moment of awe when we first stepped into Pigment; we weren't sure if we'd entered a store or a museum. Customers and friends had been telling us about Pigment long before we planned to go to Japan. It took only a second to understand why. There are many art supply stores in Tokyo, but Pigment was unique in its interior design. Although none of us had much experience mixing our own paints, we could have spent hours in the serene atmosphere, looking through all the displays. We only wish we'd had more time to see the surrounding area, which we'd learned was full of art galleries, museums, and interesting stores.

Pigments can be purchased directly from the bottles on the wall

A huge wall of brushes for both calligraphy and painting

Ink sticks of all kinds, plus tubes of paint and other art supplies



Haibara is a traditional Japanese paper store founded in 1806 with a stunning exterior built in 2011. The store was stocked with letter writing materials, paper sets, souvenirs, and more, with both modern designs and ones from hundreds of years ago. The first sight upon entering the store is the back wall, covered in large sheets of chiyogami paper. The styles change seasonally, creating a colorful contrast to the dark wood furniture.

Pink, orange, and red papers on one side, and purple on the other

Assorted packs of paper printed with traditional patterns

Browsing the shop. Letter sets and postcards in the front display.



In 2021, Sailor and PLUS opened a fountain pen and ink store in Ginza. All 100 of Sailor's Ink Studio inks and more were available at the store, as well as several store exclusive pens. The highlight was the island in the middle, where you could select parts to build your own custom Sailor pen.

Ancora's iconic wall of ink bottles

Victor choosing parts for a custom pen

Exclusive birthstone Sailor pens



No stationery trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to Itoya. Eight floors of the enormous twelve floor building were dedicated to stationery, pens, and art supplies. On our last day in Tokyo, we made it to Itoya with about two hours left to browse. We rushed through the store, trying to see it all before it closed. The sheer scale of it was dizzying. Somehow, we missed taking a photo of the pen floor. Yes, there was a whole floor dedicated to fountain pens and inks!

Itoya's storefront with the Ginza store's paperclip

Walls full of sticky notes, stickers, washi tapes, etc.

Envelopes and writing paper in every color

Specialty paper: take a sample card to the register to buy a large sheet

Takeo Paper's Pépet, a cute, wobbly critter made from stacked paper

A farm on the 11th floor. The veggies are served in the 12th floor cafe. 

Also on the 11th floor, hidden around a bend, was this detailed model of the first Itoya store from 1904. The tiny books on the shelf were bound with real paper!

One final surprise before we went back home: our very first TRAVELER'S COMPANY contact, Saori, whom we'd met many years ago at NY NOW, had returned from her own trip abroad. She came to the store so we could chat; we were so touched she took the time to see us. Thank you so much, Saori!

Gyukatsu Motomura

Although a restaurant, not a store, we couldn't talk about Tokyo without mentioning a single thing about food. We didn't have time to plan many meals in Tokyo, but one restaurant that Victor couldn't miss was Gyukatsu Motomura, a beef cutlet restaurant where you could grill your own portions at your table.

We arrived late in the evening to stand in line, shortly before the cutoff time for the last customers. It was our final night in Tokyo, and our only remaining chance to try to eat here. About half an hour into our wait, newly arriving groups started to be turned away. Forty minutes in, a fire alarm started to clang. We watched, unwilling to budge, as a few groups of Japanese diners left the building and restaurant staff hurried up and down the stairs. After several trips, they reassured us that it was safe. The alarm turned off. We joked to the European group next to us that only us tourists would risk our lives for this once in a lifetime meal. The alarm started ringing again.

Alarm or no, we waited in line until nearly 10pm. Thankfully, the cutlets were rich and tender; grilling them on the little stone stoves crisped them up perfectly, and was a ton of fun. The fire alarm continued to ring every few minutes throughout the meal. By the end of it, we had to hold back our laughter at the slightest hint of a bell.

Planning vs reality

Two questions remain from the beginning of our trip. Our shop's 2024 calendar card featured a view of Mount Fuji with cherry blossoms, two quintessential sights we hoped to see on our trip. Were we able to? The answer to both is... maybe?

We'd spent days before the trip researching parks and famous streets full of early-blooming trees. Then, in our mad rush across the country, we'd been able to stop and see none of them. It was only by delightful chance that we passed this street full of pink blossoms. We're not sure if these were cherry trees or not (please let us know!), but regardless, it was a lovely sight we were glad to have seen.

As for Mt. Fuji, we planned for an excursion from Tokyo to see the mountain. We checked several Fuji live cams each day to gauge our chances of seeing the peak. Upon arriving at Tokyo Station on a perfectly clear, sunny Friday near the end of the trip, we realized our mistake. Although we'd prepared for the possibility of bad weather, we instead found that the tickets for the bus we needed to take had sold out far in advance!

After looking at a few other ways to reach Fuji, we admitted we were too tired to really go for it. It would be nice to have a bit more time to wander the city. We spent the day visiting some of the stores above. Then, just before sunset, we trekked to Tokyo Skytree, finally prepared to ride the elevator up to its 450 meter high Tembo Galleria after living by its base every night. Did we see Fuji? We'll leave that up to our readers to judge.

There it is!
Much farther than we hoped, but the sunset was beautiful.

Tokyo Tower in the distance. We were reminded of Hiroko Kubota's 2023 Tokyo Metronome Hobonichi design.


Our time in Tokyo passed so quickly. Before we knew it, the four of us had boarded the plane back to the States. After a quick layover in Hong Kong and a bowl of wonton noodles, we were greeted by a familiar sight: Boston, and, a little further west, our little shop in Newton.

Looking forward

Days after the shop reopened, one of our customers asked if we had attended Kamihaku. Attended what? We asked.

Kamihaku, we learned, was one of the largest stationery events in Japan. Back from a two-year break, the 2024 expo featured over one hundred brands, stores, and independent artists, many of whom had created new items for the show. We'd missed out, and missed out big.

There were countless things we missed, in fact: Kamihaku, a better view of Fuji, gardens full of cherry trees, most of Osaka, most of Kyoto, a chance to walk around in the many Tokyo neighborhoods, and so on and so on. Though we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Japan, we couldn't help but feel a little wistful. Rather than let it get us down, however, we reminded ourselves that “there’s always next time”. And although the memories from this trip are still fresh in our minds, we’re excited to start planning our next one!

Still curious? Read about our Panthem studio tour. Or return to Part 1Part 2, or Part 3.

1 comment

  • Dina Topping

    My husband and I went to Tokyo from the UK in April 2023. They had only just opened up to tourists after Covid, so it was pretty quiet (and we knew that we had missed the Sakura, which were early last year).We managed to fit in loads, a trip to Asakusa and Sensoji Temple, the Tokyo Origami Museum, Ueno Park and Zoo, Museums Including in Ueno and the Snoopy Museum in Machida, Shiseido Parlour (for a fruit sandwich!) and many trips to Itoya and Maruzen for wonderful stationery. We even got a cancellation at Kirby Cafe! However, we went back in March this year and were there during the prime sakura season and everywhere was packed. We went to visit Skytree but the next available ticket was in 6 hours time, so we hung around but it really felt a bit like a waste of a day (especially as even with a ticket we had to queue again to get in, queue for the lift then for the lift for the top floor and the same on the way down). The blossom wasn’t open as early as predicted, so we waited until the last day to go to Ueno Park and still not many trees were in bloom, plus the Museums were closed as it was a Monday. We had been to another park the day before and were told we couldn’t go in until after 4 pm as there were too many people!! All very disappointing. I would advise booking everything well in advance and to avoid the end of March as that is when everyone goes for the blossom. Tokyo is an amazing place to visit (and I came home with a suitcase full of pop up greetings cards, stickers and washing tape both times), but not so good when it is crowded…

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