Visit the Paper Museum in Tokyo

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.

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Literary San Francisco redux

San Franscisco street car

We were greeted by yet another glorious bright, sunny day.  San Francisco looked spectacular. So what did we do? We ventured forth and – went inside.  Despite the beautiful day,  the draw of City Lights Bookstore 

proved too much. We had to go in.  The iconic shop was established in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti; two years later he started publishing books. Both the store and the publishing house gained notoriety after the obscenity trial that Lawrence faced for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s landmark collection Howl and Other Poems (City Lights, 1956). Today in the store you’ll find an eclectic mix of world literature, some Chapbooks, a wall dedicated to the City Lights imprint (including the 50th Anniversary edition of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems), and a curated selection of book entitled Pedagogies of Resistance. Here’s the list. Plus, there’s a special room upstairs

just for poetry.

Though a tad early for a drink, I did at least skid through the Vesuvio Cafe

next door, where Kerouac, Ginsberg and some of the other Beats used to hang out. Vesuvio, in case you were wondering, is open every day of the year. And, if that sign isn’t titillating enough, across the road there’s a strip club

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A literary adventure in San Francisco


Poet Weldon Keys is best known for parking his car at the Marin end of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 and disappearing without a trace.

Two things hit me as I walked the streets of San Francisco recently. First, the sweet, strong, distinctive (pleasant) smell of Californian weed wafting its way through the air at pretty well every street corner.* Second, the realization that a Literary Tourist can have a lot of fun in this city.

I never really enjoyed smoking pot, too much hysterical laughter over nothing, and finding ordinary ideas profound. I do however love a well bound book. Hence, the first item on my San Franciscan agenda  was an interview with Anita Engles, Executive Director of The American Bookbinders Museum, “the only museum of its kind in North America!”

Early Saturday afternoon I made my way down – and I do mean down –

on the Powell Street cable car from the much storied Fairmont Hotel where we were staying – check out the foyer

to Clementina Street in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa/Yerba Buena District where the museum is located. Along the way I dropped into the Hotel Rex in the theatre district to admire some of

their author drawings

– the hotel is named after poet Kenneth Rexroth and is home to a library bar

that features literary-themed cocktails, live music and author readings; and John’s Grill,

only a few blocks away, close to Union Square. John’s was built in 1908, the first downtown restaurant to open after the city’s famed earthquake of 1906. John’s is renowned for hosting celebrities from around the world; more importantly, it’s where Sam Spade dined out in Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 detective novel The Maltese Falcon. The same dish he ate is on the menu – Sam Spade’s Lamb Chops. Upstairs you’ll find a glass case displaying a first edition of the book, along with a statue of the black bird itself. Many have suggested that John Huston’s film, with its femme fatales and ‘shady sleuths’ marked the beginnings of film noir.

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What’s a Literary Tourist to do in Hawaii?

Ihad pretty well resigned myself to lounging by the pool with a good book and a cold Heineken, before I decided to check the Internet. Hawaii, I assumed, was going to be a Literary Tourist wasteland, a jungle of non-literary vegetation.

But I was wrong. Here we were in the middle of what seemed like nowhere (the town of Kona on the Big Island), and I find this great big warehouse of a used bookstore right around the corner. Kona Bay Books offers two miles worth of books. Not first editions, but a good selection of readable novels and non-fiction, many perfect for the beach. Plus there’s a sister store, Hilo Bay Books, on the opposite side of the island.

So off we went on a scenic two hour drive to see how the other half lives, and of course, to check out the books. Along the way we encounter purple flowering Jacaronda trees

next to the complementarily coloured mock orange, nestled, as they are, between these cool cone-shaped mounds (known as Puu Oo)

and fields of dark, healthy-looking lava.

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