March 19, 2009

Must Buy: Edo Chiyogami (traditional paper) in Tokyo

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A highlight of Tokyo is experiencing the non-stop action, the neon, the pop-culture, cutting-edge design, and the crowds. But we also love taking our travelers to quiet sections of Tokyo that are filled with traditional Japanese shops, Edo-era wooden buildings, Buddhist temples, and other historic sites that escaped the WWII bombing

One of our favorite places is the original Isetatsu store in Yanaka, which specializes in Japanese paper known as chiyogami. Isetatsu’s designs were originally created on paper used to wrap gifts and everyday goods. It was their designs that influenced painters, including Van Gogh, when they saw the Japanese paper used as packaging for international shipments

Those same Isetatsu designs are still produced using woodblocks by hand and machine. The designs are beautiful and often whimsical, and the prints, nesting boxes and jewelry boxes are true works of art

While visiting Yanaka, a lesser-known neighborhood in Tokyo, our tours also include time to explore the nearby shopfronts selling traditional Japanese rice crackers, wooden geta slippers, pottery and antiques. We often combine this neighborhood with our other favorite spots nearby, including the spectacular Gallery of Horyuji Treasures and the Kappabashi district, which sells everything from plastic food to beautiful lacquerware bowls and is a foodies dream.

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