This was one of the first questions I thought of after I booked my flight and hotel to Tokyo. Where can I find cute stationery? If you’re here, you also want to know where to spend your money. There are no affiliate links in this post. I’ve found all this information online and just want to share it with you.
For all the fountain pen lovers I’ll have a separate post with fountain pen shop locations. Some will be the same as on this list, but I’ll add my knowledge about the fountain pen scene as well. Come back next week to read that post.
What makes Japanese stationery so special? I believe the quality of Japanese stationery products is higher than Chinese or Taiwanese products. I haven’t compared many items, but I do see a difference in products that I got from eBay and Wish, and the ones that my sister in law brought back from Japan.
Asian stationery, in general, have a different aesthetic than most Western stationery and might appeal to a different crowd. This is all subjective, so I’m sure not all stationery lovers will go nuts over Asian stationery. I have seen that there are different lines available besides the overly cute patterns and colours. Vintage themed items are becoming more popular.
The Japanese mentality to find the most efficient way is also apparent in their stationery. Check out Pilot Frixion, a gel pen you can erase, or a mechanical pencil that prevents you from breaking the lead as you write.
Spring fever is happening in Japan right now and everything is pink. Expect cherry blossom themed everything. Your Starbucks drinks, snacks, cakes, sake, but also your stationery. If you like pastel pink, consider going to Japan in February – April.
Note: All prices in Japan are listed without the 8% sales tax UNLESS stated otherwise.
Before you go
There’s so much stationery that you become overwhelmed. Two tips I’ll give you before starting your shopping tour: set a budget and make a list.
Make a shopping list
If you’re an avoid bullet journaller or scrapbooking enthusiast, you probably already know the products you need to stock up on. I know artists also have a list of favourite products they can’t do without. You might find them cheaper in Japan if it’s a Japanese brand, but it’s no guarantee.
Make a list of items you need and make it as specific as possible. If you need brush pens in pastel colours, write down how much you pens you want and which colours are your top three. And if you have a favourite brand, it’s easy to find a price online. If you don’t, set a price you’d be willing to pay for those products. Once you’ve done that, you can add up all the prices and get a good indication of what your shopping budget would be. Now add another 10% so you can afford to buy a little more if you find something interesting that’s not on your list.
Setting a budget
Setting a budget is pretty easy. Japan is, despite being a technologically advanced country, a cash country. Many shops accept cash only, don’t accept credit cards or aren’t able to accept foreign debit cards. So when you arrive, find an ATM and take out some cash. I do believe that many of the shops listed below are bigger chains that have multiple payment options, but stick with me, go grab that cash.
There’s a budgeting method that uses envelops as physical jars for each purpose. Use that method for budgeting your vacation so you won’t be in for surprises. Reserve one part of your wallet for your shopping budget and keep the money for food and drinks separate. Only use the money from your budget to pay for stationery! This way you won’t overspend. If you do have other things on the receipt, do some math when you get back to your accomendation and fix the budget as much as possible.
Japan has many tax-free shopping options. Big stores might even have a dedicated place where you can get the tax back. Bring your passport and the receipt of your purchases to the desk on the same day as you do your shopping. Most tax-free counters have a minimum that you have to purchase if you want to get tax back. Check the rules before you go and shop accordingly to get the most out of it.
Daiso is one of the many 100 yen stores, but Daiso has a great selection of stationery goods. I’d recommend checking this one out first before going to others since it’ll save you a ton of money.
I’ve paid around 3 Euro for one roll of washi tape of good quality before, but Daiso has sets of two for 100 yen! There are even some washi tapes with foil prints, which are usually above 4 Euro.
Don’t hesitate to check out what other 100 yen stores like Can Do or Seria.
Loft has a little bit of everything and a sizable stationery department. It’s also a good place to find Japanese themed souvenirs with Japanese patterns or icons. Think of hand fans, textiles, masks, chopsticks, and dishes. The Japanese novelty items are grouped together on the first floor.
I’d compare it to Flying Tiger in Europe, except Loft carries cosmetics as well. I’m sure that the longer you browse the shelves the more items you’ll find you never knew you wanted or needed.
The Loft branch in Shibuya has its own desk for tax-free shopping for your convenience. Consider crossing the 5000 yen minimum to get that 8% tax back. Check out the rules I linked above.
Tokyu Hands is a large store filled with miscellaneous goods or zakka, including stationery. Loft and Tokyu Hands have a similar assortment of products but have different brands they carry.
Look out for the Mt branded washi tape, which is the original washi tape brand. The manufacturer started out with tape for the construction industry, until three women asked them for different colours and patterns. It turned out to be a hit.
The Shibuya store is the biggest and has the widest selection. They floors filled with all kinds of stationery and crafts supplies. Expect regular prices for quality products.
Sekaido is huge in the hobby and crafts department, which includes stationery. If you’re looking for pens, markers or brush pens, I highly suggest going to Sekaido in Shinjuku. I’ve never seen more pens in one place and I’ll be surprised if they don’t have what you’re looking for.
If you’re into crafts and do many different types of things, I’d definitely check Sekaido out and be prepared to spend more than an hour there just to look at everything they have. Every floor is dedicated to different crafts with so much quality stuff.
The Shinjuku branch of Sekaido is close to the Gyeon park and the Kabuchiko area. Check it out before or after dinner since most large stores don’t close before dinner.
Itoya’s Ginza store was renovated in 2016 and the new concept is more open and stylish. Every floor has its own theme, with the third floor dedicated to ‘DESK’. After their renovation, they downsized on the number of products on the floor.
Just a tip: if you go the second floor, they have the facilities to immediately mail your postcards after purchasing them. They have a selection of pens you can use to write your postcard and sell stamps so you can put the postcard in the red mailbox without worrying if you can find a post office. Japan knows what convenience is.
If you’re into notebooks, you might have heard about the traveler’s notebooks. They’re special because you have a reusable and durable cover which you can fill with different inserts. They use elastic bands that hold flexible notebooks in place. Stick a diary, a ruled, a dotted and a plain insert notebook into your traveler’s cover to cover your needs. If one of them fills up, replace it easily without having to switch out the rest.
The covers are a bit pricey, but their durability and flexibility will make up for it. I’d recommend this mostly for people who don’t feel the need to change the cover every season and who want different types of paper.
If you don’t have time to visit the shop in Tokyo Station, there’s another one at Narita Airport. Or, if you don’t want to be limited to the natural leather colours, check out Citrus Book Bindery, which use the same concept, but with vibrant colours and patterns.
Kakimori is for notebook fans. You can put together your own notebook and one of the professional bookmakers will make your customized notebook while you wait. Prices vary depending on which items you pick. A leather cover and better quality paper will be more expansive than cardboard cover with standard paper.
They also have standard notebooks for a cheaper price. Don’t miss out on these premium Japanese paper notebooks.
I personally think that this is a great experience and you’ll see the care that Japanese people put into their products first hand. They also own Inkstand, a shop that specializes in fountain pen inks and offers the service of creating a custom colour just for you.
Muji isn’t a shop specialized in stationery, but their cheap and good quality notebooks and gel pens are favourites for many bullet journallers. You can find Muji in other countries as well, but the prices in Japan are lower than overseas.
The designs of all the Muji products are basic. This might appeal to you, maybe not, but the quality is good enough to check them out. You can always personalize your notebook with gel pens and washi tape to make it more your style.
Since Muji has many branches in Tokyo, just look out for this logo.
Other places to check out
An unlikely source for stationery might be one of the many character shops. Think of Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli, Gudetama, Doraemon, etc. Many of these characters/studios have their own shops. There’s a whole street dedicated to their merchandise inside the Tokyo station and there’s Sunshine City in Ikebukuro with many of these stores. Stationery items with characters always sell, but the ones available in character shops will be more expensive than those in 100 yen stores.
Tokyo is filled with department stores. Most department stores in Shinjuku and Shibuya are located near the station, again, for convenience. The shop in shop concept is prominent and you won’t find the stationery as easily as you would in a regular store like Loft or Tokyu Hands. Don’t forget to check these out if you’re inside already.
Don Quixote (Donki)
Don Quixote is something different and probably a shop you won’t experience again. It has just about everything, even things that you never thought you’d see. It’s not a discount store, but it does feel like that with products stacked to the roof.
If you’re afraid shopping in Tokyo is too overwhelming or think that the language barrier will be a problem, you can book a stationery tour. Rainbowholic is a Tokyo based stationery lover and offers shopping tours in Shinjuku, Asakusa and Shibuya.
I stumbled upon this channel about Japanese stationery and Lana shares some of the things she bought at the shops mentioned above. In the first one, she shows a mix of goods she’s bought at Loft, Tokyu Hands and Traveler’s Company, and the last one has a selection of goods from 100 yen stores. Get inspired!
If this post lit your interest in Asian stationery, but can’t afford to go to Japan, check out this post I wrote before. It features a few online stationery stores with incredibly cute stationery and ship worldwide.
Is there a store that I missed and should be added to the list? Leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the list. Don’t forget to come back next week for my post about fountain pen shops in Tokyo!
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