Japan Stationery Museum
Asakusabashi: Museum
Japan Stationery Museum: Asakusabashi
Asakusabashi / Museum
Open 1-4pm. Closed weekends.
Free admission
Average visit time: 10-20 minutes

Although it's called a stationery museum, you won't find any envelopes, notebooks or other paper products at this quirky little museum. Instead they've assembled impressive collections of rare inkstones and calligraphy brushes, vintage fountain pens and other writing implements through the ages. There are also old abacuses, typewriters, mechanical calculators and wooden cash registers - basically the sort of office and business equipment that you might have found in Japanese stationery stores fifty or a hundred years ago.

Ancient Chinese inkstones are some of the oldest items in the collection, along with portable brush cases dating back to the Edo era and earlier. These latter items look like miniature tobacco pipes, set up with separate compartments for a writing brush and ink, and they are small enough that letter-writing samurai were able to tuck them into a sleeve when they were traveling.

Replicas of pencils used by the Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa and the military commander Masamune are some of the more unusual exhibits here, along with a giant-size calligraphy brush that weighs in at 14kg, and is made from the hair of the tails of fifty horses. There are also numerous beautifully carved personal seals made from jade and ivory.

On the more mundane side, but still interesting from a product-design standpoint, you'll encounter collections of old pen nibs and ink bottles, pencil cases from the 1920s through the 1970s, dagger-like letter openers, pencil sharpeners, and felt-tip marking pens. It's an eclectic collection, to say the least.

The museum is located on the ground floor of the Tokyo Stationers' Insurance Hall, with no visible signage for the museum outside. When you enter the lobby you'll be asked to sign in at the front desk, after which you can explore and take photos. All the explanations for exhibits are in Japanese. Admission is free, but note the limited hours; they're open only on weekday afternoons from 1-4pm.

Taito-ku, Yanagibashi 1-1-15.
5 minutes from Asakusabashi Station (JR line)
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