Literary Tourist in Tokyo:
Paper has a long and fascinating history, particularly in Japan. The Paper Museum in Tokyo traces this history and highlights the enormous contribution that paper has made over the years to human “progress” and communication.
The Paper Museum was established in 1950 in Horifune, Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo, where the first western style paper manufacturing company was founded in 1873. The museum moved to its current location in Asukayama Park in 1998.
The new four-story building houses a collection of more than 40,000 historic items and approximately 10,000 books. Permanent exhibitions cover 2,000 years worth of paper history and include displays on traditional Japanese ‘Washi’ paper (Rembrandt used it!), modern western style paper, and recycled paper. There’s also an exhibit that explores current paper-related environmental issues.
We were fortunate enough to be toured through the Museum by head curator Hiro Nishimura.
The Modern Paper Industry exhibition gallery showcases maps, charts, raw materials and commercial and retail products that illustrate how paper is made and how it makes its way into our lives.
There are also large machines, tools and equipment on display that demonstrate exactly how paper is manufactured
The Learning Room for Paper features play stations for elementary school children focusing on paper structure, production and recycling. There’s also a special computer quiz kids can take with Q & As all about paper.
The History of Paper in the World and ‘Washi’ gallery features vitrines filled writing materials
used prior to the invention of paper, and early paper-making tools.
Topics covered include the birth of paper and how it spread around the globe, the history of hand paper-making, and the history and process of making Washi; as a bonus you can touch and feel some samples of Washi!
Monument Corner illustrates the development of Japan’s paper industry in the early Meiji period and an outdoor garden contains some of the more common plants that paper in made from.
With floor space of more than 2,200 square meters, and a comprehensive collection of paper-related artifacts, the Paper Museum is recognized as one of the best of its kind in the world. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Museum also offers regular paper-making workshops and presents new exhibitions every two to three months.
One of the most popular workshops involves making handmade postcards from recycled milk cartons. Everyone can participate, children and grownups alike. All workshops are free and take place between 13:00 and 14:30 every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Recent temporary exhibits have featured dresses made from paper cloth,
and the works of famed Japanese Origami artist Akira Yoshizawa. There’s also a library at the Museum. It contains a collection of specialized paper-related books and magazines that cover subjects including paper, pulp, paper manufacturing, and Washi. Books are available for all visitors to read. Call the library at 03-3916-2320, or send an e-mail in advance to make a reservation.
Although the Museum’s main mission is to educate the public about how wide-spread the use of paper is, and how it’s made, it’s also important to the paper companies that support the Paper Museum to inform people about all of the things that industry is doing to help minimize the impact of its activities on the environment.
While the museum does currently cater to an English audience with some English language labeling, more will be coming. Hiro informed me that there will be a much greater English language presence by the time the Museum’s 50th Anniversary rolls around in March 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics!
The Paper Museum is located in Asukayama Park, Kita-ku, Tokyo.
You can reach it byTrain or Streetcar
- JR Oji Station ( South Exit ) JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, 5 minutes’ walk
- Nishigahara Station Namboku Line ( Tokyo Metro ), 7 minutes’ walk
- Asukayama Station Toden ( Toei Streetcar ) Arakawa Line, 3 minutes’ walk
or by Bus
- Asukayama Station Toei Bus ( 王40甲・王55・草64 ), 4 minutes’ walk