Japan Stationary Museum

by Stefan Chiarantano, Mar 20, 2007 | Destinations: Japan

It's on the first floor of a building near Asakusabashi Subway Station.  It's easy to get to and find, and it's free to enter.  There's a collection of writing and stationary objects that occupies the first floor.  The museum is overseen by two senior custodians who are very friendly and kind.  They expressed surpise when I walked in out of the blue.  Actually, I was the only visitor they had had so far in a while I think.

Unfortunately, the tags for the items are written only in Japanese but don't let that stop you from visiting.  I had a walk through first, joted down some questions and then approached the custodians for clarification and assistance.  We managed somehow with my limited Japanese and their much better English.

There's a Ming dynasty seal made of rock crystal on display.  It's so unusual.  Usually, seals are fashioned out of some kind of metal.  There's also a minature gold seal on display that caught my eye.  The custodians informed me that it was a gift from the Emperor of China named Kobute to an unknown Emperor of Japan.  It dates from the Yayoi period, 57 AD.  It weighs 108 grams of pure gold (99.9%).  It was found in Kyushu by a farmer.  It must be the oldest seal in Japan.

There are replicas, copies, of Tokugawa Ieyasu's pencils on display.  There are two of them.  One measures 11.4 cm and the other 7.2 cm in length.

There are many inkstones on display.  There's one very large inkstone that has a beautiful embroidered flora and fauna motif along its edge.  It is of an unknown age and worth a small fortune.

There's a brush on display that must be one of the biggest I've ever seen.  The custodians told me that it was made with the tails of 50 horses.  It weights 14 kg and is 170 cm tall. It was used for advertising.  There's also a very tall Shaffer pen on display as you walk into the museum.  It dates from 1920 and is 160 cm tall.  This too was used for advertising.  There's also a 1905 poster by A.W. Faber "Castell" on display.  There's another interesting sign on display.  It's American.  It says, "School Tuck Shop" Est. 1901 Proprietors:  The Misses Molesworth.

There were so many things that caught my eye.  There's a variety of adding machines (mechanical, battery, or electrical), writing instruments new and old, ink stones, abacuses, hibachi (warming the hands), writing boxes, and stationary products such as pencil cases.  I loved the graphics on the The Paper Slates on display in the cabinet. There's also an autopen on display.

Also, on display were three photographs.  One dating from the Taisho period and the other two from the early Showa period showing the packaging of glue and its shipment. 

I found the trip very interesting since many of the items on display in the collection I still currently use.  I have two manual typewriters dating from the 40s and the other from 70s that I still currently use.  There's a desk top computer on display very similar to the one I still use.  I still rely on a battery charged adding machine to tally up my totals.  It just showed me how quickly objects have become obsolete nowadays.

I'd like to thank the two senior custodians Mr. Hidemi Tsuchida and Hisayoshi Horioka for their kindness and assistance.  As I was leaving, they presented me with a Japan Stationary Museum pen.  I was so touched by their thoughtfulness. 

If you have an interest in early writing instruments, seals and the like, do check them out.  You might be pleasantly surprised as I was.