The giant red paper clip attached to its signage tells all - this is Itoya Stationery Store, a heaven and haven for stationery lovers, with eight floors filled with every accoutrement desired for writing, drawing, and crafts.
Each floor displays a particular stationery item, sectioned off according to functions and styles, and attractively arranged according to variegated shades of colours. It’s not just the stock itself, but how Itoya has managed to systematically categorize so many types, variations, shapes, sizes, and colours. It’s like art, stationery art.
The first Itoya store was begun by Katsutaro Ito in 1904, and refurbished in 2015. The simple décor rivets attention to Itoya’s amazing array of items, the immense variety. You might actually not realize you needed something or knew it existed until you see it at Itoya.
A floor may focus on one item, take pens and writing instruments, and there will be about 2,000 types on display. Two floors are veritable paper paradises, with more than 1,000 types of just paper for miscellaneous and specific craft work needs. Samples are at hand throughout the floors for customers to touchy-feely and try out.
Staff buyers go all over Japan and the world to get the best stuff in. Ito himself travelled to and was fascinated by stationeries from the West, and he started Itoya to bring these to Japan. With this start as inspiration, Itoya now showcases Japanese stationery. Whether a postcard, a paint brush, a notebook, a stapler, they are rubber stamped with Japanese precision, engineering, and creativity.
Stationery is nothing new in Japan. Calligraphy using brushes, ink, and paper, was already a means of communication from the sixth century, then flourishing during the Edo period (1603-1868). The Meiji Era from 1868 brought in western pens, and as they say, things were never the same again. Japan today has among the largest fountain pen communities in the world.
Itoya is a reassuring store in a technology powered world. They still sell pens, they still sell paper, so Ito isn’t going to get any kind of fright on seeing the store today. The basics of stationery have not been replaced, only their scope has broadened. It’s still a stationery store, and hopefully, many generations ahead will still know what this means. Ito would also be thrilled Itoya continues to honour his wish that it be a place “of comfort filled with a cheerful atmosphere.” That it is.