Kakimori4-20-12 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Shops dedicated to writing instruments and paper are a specialty of Tokyo, but Kakimori in Kuramae on the east side of the Sumida River presents their items in a refreshingly enjoyable manner. Instead of displaying pens behind glass cases, the specialty stationery shop keeps their well-curated collection of fountain pens ranging from homegrown Japanese brands to inexpensive Czech-made pens to limited-edition Pelikans arranged along a wall so customers can try them out for themselves. Various types of paper and inks are also on hand for clients to experiment with different pen, paper, and ink combinations. The store is owned and run by Takuma Hirose, whose self-professed goal for opening the store is to help people build bonds by rediscovering the joy of communicating the old-fashioned way—through handwriting.
Apart from writing implements, Kakimori also provides various materials such as manuscript paper, cloth, leather, and hardware for customers to craft their own notebooks and writing pads within the store.
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Maehara Koei Shoten2-14-5 Misuji, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Tokyo’s notoriously fickle weather warrants having an umbrella on hand at all times. While most mass-produced umbrellas get the job done, few, if any, can stand the test of time and the yearly onslaught of typhoon season in Japan. Maehara Koei’s umbrellas are guaranteed to survive the abuse of daily wear; theirs are all made by hand using 16 ribs, double the amount found in regular umbrellas. The curved design also provides extra protection from strong wind and heavy downpour.
According to their sales brochure, “the durable and lustrous fabric is woven by craftsmen on a dedicated loom that still remains from the time when the area around Mt. Fuji was famous for its silk fabrics.” The quality of the craftsmanship is immediately noticeable, from the way the umbrella springs open, to the intricate stitching on the fabric, to the feel of the handle on the palm of your hand. Ten types of handle materials are offered, including maple, bamboo, and hickory. Repairs and bespoke services are also provided at the shop.
Nakata HangerAoyama Twin Tower West 1F, Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Picking the wrong size or shape of hanger can permanently deform your prized wardrobe. At Nakata, there’s a hanger for every type of garment, with a variety of shapes for different uses and different forms to preserve different silhouettes. The shop specializes in handcrafted wooden hangers and has been manufacturing a wide variety for many of Tokyo’s top brands and department stores for the past 60 years. Obsessive attention to detail is a hallmark of Nakata; their top-of-the-line NH collection of hangers is individually carved by craftsmen from a single piece of wood. The price of perfection isn’t cheap: entry-level hangers start at JPY 3,000 (USD 30) and rise sharply for the NH collection and customized orders.
Ishikawa Clothes Brush CornerTakashimaya Nihonbashi 6F, 2-4-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Like hangers, using the wrong clothes brush can permanently damage your clothing. Most brushes on the market have bristles that are too hard, putting too much stress on the fabric and causing the natural sheen of the cloth to fade prematurely. At Ishikawa, only horse owakige, the feathery hair at the base of the animal’s tail, is used in their handmade brushes. The soft, yet firm hair is perfect for brushing away dust from fabric while adding a bit of luster in the process.
Ishikawa brushes also don’t have handles. The design is deliberate, forcing the user to grip the back of the brush and apply more pressure but using less effort. The company also produces special brushes for shoes and hats and for delicate fabrics such as vicuña and fur.
Guild of Crafts104-0061 1-3-3 Ginza Chuou-ku Tokyo
The bespoke shoe company was established in 1996 as a pure welted and hand sewn boots company by British-trained master shoemaker Chihiro Yamaguchi. The Guild title is for real, Yamaguhci is a member of the British Footwear Association’s Guild of Craftsmen but manufactures all his products in Asakusa, Tokyo, the traditional heart of the Japanese shoemaking industry.
The main bespoke line, Guild of Crafts, requires six months to make a single pair, taking over 60 steps. Both the craftsman and the customer design the shoe together, taking into account personal style and manner of walking. A map of the foot is made using over 50 measuring points before a wooden mold or last is constructed. The master shoemaker uses an ancient hand-sewn welted technique which consists of sewing an extra-thin sheet of leather between two thicker strips of leather for a more durable and waterproof shoe.
The flagship store in Ginza offers both bespoke and semi-order services where existing models are altered to suit the customer’s measurements. Bespoke shoes begin at JPY 300,000 (USD 3,000) and reach up to JPY 1,350,000 (USD 13,000) for pairs using exotic skins such as crocodile and whale.
Photographs by David Celdran
This story originally appeared in Vault Magazine.