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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Japan Stationery Museum Tokyo

日本文具資料館

Yatate portable pen and ink case, Japan Stationery Museum, Taito ward, Tokyo.
Yatate portable pen and ink case, Japan Stationery Museum, Taito ward, Tokyo.
The Japan Stationery Museum (Nihon Bungu Shiryokan) is a small repository of things to do with writing - in the broadest sense of the word - in the Yanagibashi district of Taito ward, Tokyo.

The museum occupies the first floor of the Tokyo Bungu Hanbai Kenpo Kaikan (The Tokyo Stationers' Insurance Hall), and covers a lot in quite a small space.

Display cases, the Japan Stationery Museum, Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Display cases in the Japan Stationery Museum
There are the expected things on display like pens, pencils and calligraphy paraphernalia, but among them certain items stand out such as replicas of pencils used by the Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543–1616) and the military commander Masamune Date (1567–1636), ancient Chinese ink stones, and Edo era ink cases (that look like smoking pipes). There are ink bottles, and a huge calligraphy brush made from 50 horses' tails and weighing 14kg.

There are examples of Egyptian papyrus, quill pens, bamboo pens, grass pens, antique fountain pens representing dozens of illustrious brands, and all manner of other writing implements.

Ink bottles, Japan Stationery Museum, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Ink bottles, Japan Stationery Museum, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Yet there are unexpected items, too, that stretch the meaning of the word "stationery," like personal seals from China and Japan, including a replica of a solid gold one used officially in Japan in ancient times. There is a collection of wicked-looking paper knives. And there are even machines such as cash registers, calculators, and a futuristic robotic writing arm.

Mechanical calculators on display at the Japan Stationery Museum, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Mechanical calculators, Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
The calculators made for some of the most interesting exhibits, covering everything from old abacuses, to clunky mechanical hand-operated calculators from the 1960s that looked more like typewriters (of which there were also several).

Primitive long-distance messaging machine in the Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
Primitive long-distance messaging device in the Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
For its small size, the Japan Stationery Museum had an unexpectedly rich and varied range of exhibits, and I spent a good 20 minutes here taking everything in - somewhat longer than the 5 or so minutes I had envisaged on first walking in.

Calligraphy ink stones at the Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
Calligraphy ink stones at the Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
The Japan Stationery Museum is free to enter, and photography is permitted. The curator is welcoming and friendly. There is virtually no English - just a little on the two pamphlets I was given. However, the one thing that seriously compromises the Japan Stationery Museum is its extremely limited opening hours: 1pm - 4pm on weekdays only, closed weekends and public holidays. Closed December 28 - January 5.

Robot writing arm at the Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo.
Robotic writing arm, Japan Stationery Museum
The Japan Stationery Museum is five minutes' walk from the East Exit of Asakusabashi Station on the JR Sobu Line, or Exit A1 of Asakusabashi Station on the Toei Asakusa Subway Line. Just follow the overhead Sobu Line railway eastwards.

Japan Stationery Museum in Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Japan Stationery Museum, Tokyo

Japan Stationery Museum
Yanagibashi 1-1-15, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0052
Tel. 03-3861-4905

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