Traditional Print and Paper Visit in Japan?
January 15, 2012 2:53 PM   Subscribe

I am a printmaker, but I have also been trained in bookbinding and papermaking, including some Japanese papermaking. We are going to Japan in late March/early April, and I would love to visit a printmaking/papermaking studio.

We will be in Japan for Cherry Blossom season and we are planning to visit Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka. We are willing to take a day trip out of one of these cities, but anything too far is a deal-breaker. I have mapped out a few shops that sell traditional paper and prints, but I would love to visit an actual studio to see people making paper and prints. (Also, I would love to see traditional Japanese woodcuts, but if there is a studio that specializes in other sorts of printmaking, I would be very interested.)

I am a woman in my 20s, traveling with my husband. We are trying to learn bits and pieces of Japanese to get us across the country, but we are FAR from conversational. Any suggestions for a studio that would welcome visitors, or suggestions for ways to approach studios to see if they would welcome visitors, or other destinations for the visually-inclined in Japan, would be amazing. Thank you, Hive-Mind!!
posted by emilyclaire to Travel & Transportation around Japan (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Mefite woodblock100 is a printmaker who lives in Tokyo. You should mefi mail him.
posted by OmieWise at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by OmieWise at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2012

tokyo national gallery is a must-see (there was this lacquer writing box...never have i come closer to doing a "smash and grab" in a museum)...ditto on the graveyard in are you getting around? if you get the shinkansen rail pass (which you MUST get before you is NOT available in japan) then you get unlimited travel on the bullet hour south of kyoto is a little town called nara...incredibly beautiful place...if you want to see geisha, friday nights in kyoto...walk up the hill on the east side of town...theres a pagoda temple at the top...they all go up there before work and are generally found traipsing down the hill in small groups around sunset...
posted by sexyrobot at 3:18 PM on January 15, 2012

I don't have any recommendations that are quite on point, but here are some places you'd probably find interesting. They're all in Tokyo.

The Paper Museum.
Bingoya. It's kind of hard to navigate to, but it's an extraordinary folk-craft (mingei) shop. Not too far from Shinjuku station.
The Folk Crafts Museum. What it says on the tin.
Kyukyodo. Japanese paper and calligraphy goods. Expensive.
Sekaido. Art supplies.
Haibara. Washi specialty shop. Expensive.
Ozu Washi

Many years ago, I wandered around in Tokyo's "paper neighborhood." I think it's somewhere in Nihonbashi (where Ozu and Haibara also are), but I haven't been able to find it again, and don't remember the name of the exact area. There was a place that was practically a department store of paper, as I recall.

Ran across this tour. Can't vouch for it, but it seems like it's up your alley.
posted by adamrice at 3:54 PM on January 15, 2012

The short answer is that there isn't really an easy answer for this. However,...

I will second adamrice's suggestions of Ozu Washi (check out the gallery on the second floor, and call to find out when they are doing demonstrations in the lobby -- and if you can try yourself, which I think you can if your timing is right) and Haibara.

The Paper Museum is OK, but much of it is devoted to machine papermaking, or papermaking in other cultures. The library of the Paper Museum is the real gem hidden in the basement -- manymanymany books in English, and more in Japanese but for looking at gorgeous samples of paper, English isn't necessary (if you're happy to look at the books on the shelves, you won't need to speak Japanese -- for the good stuff that's in the stacks, you will). Don't go to the museum without setting aside some time for the library.

From Tokyo, you can take the Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro (on your way out, or back, visit the Japan Traditional Craft Center) out to Ogawamachi (last stop, a little more than an hour), and walk for 15 minutes or so to the Kogeikaikan Craft Center (link is Japanese -- there doesn't seem to be an English page). They have someone demonstrating papermaking, but you should call ahead to know when to go as they are not making paper all day every day. While in Ogawa you can also go to the former Testing Station, now called ... Well, how about Hands-on Learning Center (also Japanese).

The OrigamiKaikan in Tokyo (Ochanomizu) has demonstrations of paper decorating on ?the top floor? as memory serves. Probably best to call ahead (or ask your concierge to call ahead, etc) to confirm that they will be working when you go.

The Japan National Tourist Organization has a PDF file of papermaking studios around the country that are willing to have visitors (not sure this link will work, but try here), but just showing up and not being able to speak Japanese is more likely to cause trouble than anything else -- I would strongly recommend taking a translator; often the Tourist Offices offer a free service of this type. Also, they are almost all off the beaten track, meaning minimum 1 hour from a big city. Though the text in the PDF makes it look like these places are set up for "workshops" it's more likely that they would prepare something rudimentary for you if you make a reservation; many places will let you try your hand at making postcard or letter-size sheets and they'll have some pressed flowers or paper cuttings for you to incorporate into your sheets. [*Note that Kubo san is on this list and his studio is another possibility while you are in Ogawa-machi, if you have a translator]

I will not be in Japan in late March/early April, so I can't offer to guide you at that time, but if you have any further questions, feel free to me-mail me (I say that, but I'm not actually sure how that works or if I need to do something to make that available or what...).
posted by segatakai at 1:18 AM on January 16, 2012

This sounds like an incredibly awesome trip! I can't add anything about papermaking, but on your way home, there is a giftshop/museum in the Tokyo airport which has what might be the world's tiniest origami- folded by microscope, there is a little crane that perches on the head of a pin! ~delightful~
posted by iiniisfree at 7:08 AM on January 16, 2012

I would spend time on because it's a great resource and is in English. There may be exhibitions you might want to see during your trip.
posted by gen at 11:13 PM on January 22, 2012

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