Travel · Treasures

Adventures in origami 2.0: Tokyo paper crawl (shopping)

After three years of being away from Japan, I’m back for a week of good eating and cultural appreciation in the amazing capital city. Much of my fun in Tokyo will center around some of Japan’s signature arts and crafts, including many forms of creativity that use paper. One of my favorite ways to use paper is origami. I’m just a novice with this art form, but I enjoy it. I’m a person who likes to create using my hands, and I find working with colorful, sumptuous paper and precision folding to be meditative.

Shopping for paper and imagining what to make with it is fun all by itself. If you happen to be in Tokyo, I’ve compiled a guide of about a dozen places you can begin looking for wonderful paper to build your stash. Many of these places don’t stop at origami paper, either – you can see some work on display, or keep browsing for stationery, wrapping, or other craft and gift items. Some of the buildings are historic, and if you are lucky, you might even encounter a master origami artist.

If you are new to origami and choosing the right kind of paper, check out Taro’s website for a guide to different types of origami paper you can buy. Then, read on for my blurbs about shopping.

Keeping the focus on origami paper, I have rated the shops from 1-3 stars:

✯✯✯ = Impressive selection of high-quality papers, books; suitable for all levels; knowledgeable staff; more specific focus on origami and paper arts in general. Sometimes famous origami artists are in residence.

✯✯ = Good selection of high-quality papers and less-expensive standard papers; a great resource, but fewer choices for the advanced folder; store has a more general art supply / stationer focus.

= Fair to good selection of inexpensive papers; good choice for beginners; not art-focused (variety store), so may not have staff who can answer all questions.

Origami Kaikan ✯✯✯ A beautiful gallery, shop, paper dyeing studio, and teaching space on six floors. The atmosphere is welcoming and there is a nice selection of books and papers of many sizes and types. The gallery is a delight for all ages. If you are lucky, you might meet a master who will fold for you. The paper dyeing studio sometimes has demonstrations. Workshops for beginning to advanced folders are available by appointment. You can read a brief description and see more photos from three years ago, here. Address: 1 Chome-7-14 Yushima, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 113-0034

Isetatsu ✯✯✯ Isetatsu was founded in 1864 in Iwamotocho, but later moved to the historic district of Yanaka, one of the few areas of Tokyo not bombed during WWII. This small, historic shop is full of scrumptious papers whose prints are still created with traditional woodblock printing methods. It has some of the most beautiful papers I’ve ever seen, as well as framed prints, stationery, and many gift items. I enjoyed chatting with the shopkeeper about kusudama, an origami challenge I have yet to tackle.

The area of Yanaka is a hub for crafts, including textiles, pottery, and cuisine, and is an absolute must if you want to experience a rare glimpse of old Tokyo. Address: 2 Chome-18-9 Yanaka, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0001

Ozu Washi ✯✯✯ It’s places like Ozu Washi that have turned me into a paper hoarder. This is an historic shop, workshop, and teaching space whose staff take paper very seriously, but are very kind to novice makers like me who need direction. It is 100% worth the visit. The shop sells unique hand-made papers, washi, kits, stationery, and origami papers of many kinds. The building’s façade is elegant and low-profile; inside is spacious and organized. Whenever I visit, I have to walk down every aisle. They hold regular paper-making workshops by appointment. You can read about my washi-making experience here. Address: 3 Chome-6-2 Nihonbashihoncho, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0023

Origami No Kurasawa (おりがみのクラサワ) ✯✯✯ A recommendation from David at Taro’s Origami Studio (just up the road from here; see below). Open M-F, 9 to 5, David wasn’t kidding when he said this place stocks loads of origami paper and books (mostly in Japanese). There’s a wonderful selection of paper sizes and types, with many examples to inspire. Even better, the prices are discounted. Address: 2 Chome-6-7 Komagata, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0043

Itoya ✯✯1/2 A wonderland of art and craft supplies, pens, gifts, and of course paper can be found on eight floors of this flagship store. High quality origami paper in limited sizes, and a modest book selection, are on the sixth floor. A stellar inventory of washi and other delights await the truly paper obsessed. I rated +1/2 for the incredible variety of inspiring merch and the sleek store design. Address: 2 Chome-7-15 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061

Taro’s Origami Studio ✯✯1/2 (I took off half a star for its less fulsome paper selection.) Taro’s is new in town, as of January 2023. I visited the shop the afternoon I arrived in Tokyo. It’s in a well-trod location, between the Sumida riverfront park and the Sensoji Temple area.

The small space has an open floor plan, with different levels for retail and practice. Taro Yaguchi, the proprietor, wasn’t in when I visited, but David, a Japanese American who says he “does a little bit of everything” in the shop, greeted me warmly at the door and invited me to come in and look around. The place is decorated with wonderful installations, and there is an activity area set up for teaching. Taro’s is not strong on the retail side – there are just a few books, and not many paper selections, although Taro does have his own paper brand. This enterprise seems to be more focused on creating art installations for retail spaces, hosting parties, and teaching lessons. David told me that Taro is an international patent lawyer, and the origami enterprise is his passion project. It’s a fascinating story and I will visit again soon to hear more, as I have been invited to come back and fold anytime.

You can’t miss the Asakusa shop – there’s a red sign and a big turtle at the entrance. There is also a Brooklyn, N.Y. shop (see web link). Tokyo Address: 7 Chome-1-12 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032

Origami House ✯✯1/2 (Temporarily closed as of February 2023. Check website for reopening.) Gallery/shop is a hub for many well-known Japanese and international origamists, and some of their work is on display. There is a small selection of papers and books. Workshops are available. It feels like a place for true devotees of the craft. Address: 113-0001 Tokyo, Bunkyo City, 33, 文京区白山1-33-8-216 朝日白山マンション2F

Tokyo Origami Museum ✯✯1/2 (I shaved off half a star for location and size.) “Museum” is probably a poor translation, and “gallery” might be a better description – there are a lot of wonderful examples here, but I’d qualify this small space as more of a hybrid store/workshop. The shop does stock some very nice papers and books, and there are knowledgeable folks on the premises. It’s a bit of extra effort to get here (in a residential area to the east of Asakusa), but worth it for true enthusiasts. Origami artists may be on hand to do a demonstration or share something they have made. Classes are held in the upstairs room, too. You can read a brief description and see more photos from three years ago, here. Address: 〒130-0004 Tokyo, Sumida City, Honjo, 1 Chome−31−5 日本折紙協会

PHOTO: Tokyo Origami Museum

Kyukyodo ✯✯1/2 In business since 1663, when it supplied incense to the emperor, Kyukyodo is a stationery store offering beautifully crafted Japanese paper, calligraphy brushes, high-quality cards, and postcards. Although not exclusively focused on origami, there are some gorgeous papers here and it’s easy to be otherwise tempted by the vast array of gifts, seasonal cards, as well as incense. The Ginza branch is easy to spot with its striking arched brick entrance. The original branch is in Kyoto. Address: 5 Chome-7-4 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061

Haibara ✯✯Another long-standing, high-end stationer like Kyukyodo that specializes in washi items, many with traditional chiyogami patterns and woodblock prints. There is a small selection of origami papers, and I saw some packages of washi remnants at a good price that could be cut to size. It’s on the first floor of the Nihonbashi Tower. Address: 〒103-0027 Tokyo, Chuo City, Nihonbashi, 2 Chome−7−1 東京日本橋タワー

Sekaido ✯✯ Six floors of office and craft supplies that include a decent selection of origami papers (including a few larger sizes) on the second floor. There is a gallery and space for art classes on the top floor. Address: 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−1−1 1F~5F 世界堂ビル

Daiso ✯1/2 Daiso is a huge chain variety store that sells basic craft, office, and school supplies as well as home goods. Beginners can load up on packs of reasonably-priced (1-3 dollars per pack) papers here, in solid colors and traditional, kawaii, or geometric prints, mostly in sizes 15cm square or smaller. Nothing at Daiso is hand-made, nor are there gallery examples or artists in residence, but there are bargains galore. There are hundreds of Daiso shops all over Japan, and Korea, too. (See website for shop addresses)

Tokyu Hands Tokyu Hands is a multi-level chain variety store that sells home, travel, and gift items. They have a section devoted to stationery, stickers, wrapping, and standard origami papers. I can spend a lot of time and money here, stockpiling paper treasure. (See website for shop addresses)

Loft Like Tokyu Hands, Loft is a variety store that won’t disappoint if you want to find some good, basic papers at decent prices. Just keep in mind that the variety of other adorable items will beckon, and it’s easy to lose track of time! (See website for shop addresses)

PHOTO: Loft in Shibuya

I’ll say goodbye for now and Happy Valentine’s Day with some lovely hearts I made using paper from an Itoya haul. The 3-D heart can open to put a smaller heart or bauble.

If you know about a great origami paper source in Tokyo that I’ve not mentioned, please say hello in comments!

2 thoughts on “Adventures in origami 2.0: Tokyo paper crawl (shopping)

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