Where To Find Art Supplies In Tokyo
Ready your wallets, art supplies in Tokyo abound! We’re here to introduce seven must visit historical art shops in the city.
Art is a hobby to some and a way of life to others. Regardless of your preferred genre or artistic inclinations, art supplies are a necessity, not a want. If you’re living in Tokyo, where can you find your paints, inks or clay? What if you want to try something new but aren’t sure where to start? Or, what if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the artist in your life?
Here are some of the best-loved art supply shops in the Tokyo area, listed from oldest to newest.
Bumpodo (Since 1887)
First established in Jimbocho, Bumpodo is both a historical landmark and one of the finest art stores in the greater Tokyo area.
Bumpodo was Japan’s first oil paint specialty store, but after surviving the Great Kanto Earthquake, they began selling other art supplies and stationery items. Each floor, from the basement to the seventh is filled with exciting things to see and do—there’s even an art gallery, two art schools and a cafe to enjoy.
Bumpodo is best known for its woodblock printing supplies. They are the largest retail seller of such items, and perhaps the best place to get advice if you’re interested in getting into print-making yourself.
Writers love them for their paper. They were the first to sell Japanese writing paper. It’s not too thick or thin and has a smooth surface that works with pencils, fountain pens or ballpoint pens.
- Original oil paints
- Woodblock printing supplies
- Japanese writing paper
- Copperplate printing inks
Tanaka Kinkado (Since 1905)
Located in the Okachimachi area, Tanaka Kinkado is a painting plus general art supply shop much smaller than some others on this list but have the know-how to help anyone, regardless of painting genre or level of expertise.
Although perhaps better known to Japanese artists and craftspeople, Tanaka Kinkado is the best place to find paint and calligraphy brushes in Tokyo. Brushes of all shapes, sizes and materials can be found in this shop. They’re the ideal place to check if you’re looking for brushes for an artist who has everything.
- Paint and calligraphy brushes
Gekkoso (Since 1917)
Gekkoso is a family business that has been dedicated to producing art (mainly painting) supplies. Three generations have owned the business and they continue to expand their line to this day. Everything they sell is original! They even have their own stationery and general goods with their trademark “a horn to summon friends with” design on it.
While not as extensive a collection of items as some of the other shops, given that everything is original, you can easily consult with the staff to find precisely what you’re looking for in no time at all.
- Art supply storage bags
Tools Shop (Since 1919)
Tools Shop has three locations: Ochanomizu, Yokohama and Osaka, as well as an online shop. They also have somewhat of a sub-brand/blog called Cotora Monora that focuses more on stationery/scrapbooking supplies such as washi tapes, stamps, hole punches and fancy types of papers.
Tools Shop is best known for its drawing supplies. Manga artists and Western-style calligraphers in particular will love Tools Shop as they have perhaps the best selection of calligraphy and fountain pens, plus inks in a myriad of colors too.
- Copic brand pens
- Calligraphy and fountain pens
- Stationery/scrapbooking supplies
Uematsu Japanese Art Supply (Since 1933)
Located on Meiji-dori in Shibuya, Uematsu Japanese Art Supply, as its name indicates, focuses mainly on traditional Japanese art supplies. They’re considered to be the place to go for rare pigments, including those from brands dating back to the early Edo era.
They do sell a few Western brands as well, but their Japanese products are what has kept them in business for so long. They are also a great place to go if you need a little help with some techniques or would like to take a class or two on various types of art.
- Washi paper
- Rare Japanese pigments
- Traditional watercolors and glues
Address: 2-20-8 Shibuya, Tokyo
Sekaido (Since 1945)
Sekaido has several locations across Japan, but its flagship store with five floors in Shinjuku is perhaps the best known—especially for its unique Mona Lisa banners. They arguably have the widest selection of products to choose from, including art supplies you can find in the other shops mentioned in this article.
What sets Sekaido apart is two-fold:
- They sell one of the most comprehensive manga and comic design collections. They have everything—from special patterned papers to ultra-fine-tipped ink pens—to start your manga career.
- Although only available in Japanese, Sekaido carries the widest range of how-to art books and drawing guides on everything from human anatomy to sculpting and plate printing.
- Manga and comic design tools
- Child and beginner’s art supplies
- How-to books
Pigment (Since 2015)
Pigment is a must-see place for artists, Japanese culture and history buffs, and those looking to experience something new. They’re a traditional art supplies lab that displays its collection and items more like an art museum or gallery than your standard shop. Some of their collection is available to purchase as well—just speak to a staff member. All staff are artists themselves or research specialists in the items, so you’re in good hands there.
If you’re interested in Japanese calligraphy, you probably already know what an ink stone is, but essentially it’s a stone you rub an inkstick and water against to create liquid ink. Entire books have been written on ink stones, but the condensed version is that the better the stone, the better the ink turns out. Even cheap inks can look incredible with a decent quality stone. There are over 200 different types of inks available in-store.
The second major draw of Pigment is their wall of, well, pigments. There are 4500 different colors from various sources on display. Ones made from crushed minerals and crystals, soil based pigments and others. These pigments are not only used for art but for industrial purposes (automotive or building paints) and cosmetics as well.
- Paint (oil, water color)
Hopefully, these shops and their wares have got you feeling inspired to start a creative adventure of your own, or given you some ideas for where to look for the perfect gift for the artist in your life.