This store has been creating and making paper since the early 17th century. The city of Tokyo has grown up around it and engulfed it within the skyscrapers and stop lights, the crowds and the street traffic. The first time we tried to find it we passed it at least five times. This obscure building is world-famous for its handmade papers and vast collection of antique paper. In the lobby there is a demonstration area where an expert craftsman works with water, and stone, and pulp and brushes to create these handmade masterpieces.
Sorry, no pictures allowed inside the store. Out of respect for the Japanese we didn’t even try. Let me help you imagine what this location holds. Imagine ceilings that are fifteen feet tall, with three-inch high and four feet wide drawers stacked from floor to ceiling. Inside each drawer is a series of papers that are similar in design, color or structure. Every color of the rainbow is available, with a focus on hand painted and hand printed designs that reflect the traditional japanese patterns and color schemes. Some drawers were so low that I had to get on my hands and knees to open the drawer (which horrified the Japanese that I would consider doing such a thing). Some were so high up that I could not even reach the drawer handle.
In the middle of the drawer section is a display area that contains display cases where valuable supplies for embossing and paper crafting kits are stored. Each segment of the cases shows in full the contents of a kit or the completed project sold in the package. This is where I found a piece of paper that was about $1600 a sheet. It was hand painted and gilded with 14k gold leaves. It was created by an artist in japan and sold by the sheet…which I did not buy, but only admired!
On the other side of the store were supplies for making fans, books and origami crafts. This area also included brushes for calligraphy, inks for mixing/painting, and papers for writing. Blank wall hangings were sold in pads for the industrious artist who is not easily put off by the vast whiteness of the page, and row upon row of materials for traditional japanese crafts were sold in bulk.
This trip we decided to buy supplies for making fans. the store sells blank fan pads, the instructions for folding the fans, and the bamboo edges where the completed paper is attached. I thought it might be cool for my mom and I to collaborate on a fan – she could paint it and I would calligraphy on it – and sell them in the gallery. I’ll keep you posted once we get home on how this project turns out!
If you ever have a chance to visit Ozu Washi in Tokyo, plan to stay for a couple of hours. On our first trip we spent four hours in the store and had to stop simply out of sensory overload. Eat before you go as there are no food stops nearby…if you leave hungry you will have at least 30 minutes before you find somewhere to eat…but it is well worth the effort to find it and absorb it. No wonder it is the best shop in Tokyo!!!