If you’re in the city and keen to get creative, there are some great spots to get all the supplies you need without breaking the bank.
Depending on whether you’re an expert or more of an amateur, after Japanese traditional goods or Western brands, there will be somewhere perfect for your artful perusing in Tokyo. While stores like Loft can be great for basic supplies and a surprising amount of choice, sometimes you want something special. These stores vary from modern beauties to some of the oldest art stores in Tokyo, with thousands of pigments and hundreds of brushes to choose from, get ready to get arty!
Sekaido: Because size matters
Opened in 1940, Sekaido is the go-to art store for anyone in Tokyo. And with the flagship store in Shinjuku, it’s a great place to start. Instantly spot-able thanks to the open-mouthed Mona Lisa, their flagship store has 6 floors filled with all the supplies you could need.
The first floor is a stationary and business pens including beautiful letter writing sets which change seasonally. The second is filled with manga supplies and starter kits which can be really great gifts or a great way to try it out with a little guidance. They also have a computer-design section which is quite unusual and perfect for advancing your manga creations.
For the fine arts you need to head to the third floor where you’ll find all the brushes, paints and sculpting supplies your heart desires. There is a really good selection of brands and prices and prices so it’s perfect for most artists out there.
The 4th floor is dedicated to frames and prints and the 5th to painting and frames.
On the top floor is a small gallery as well as spaces used for their art classes—it really has everything! If you’re planning to make a few visits it may be worth getting a Sekaido Membership card which offers discounts.
The place to go for rare pigments, Uematsu has plenty—as well as other traditional Japanese art supplies. Focusing mainly on painting, they have a huge array of goods, with plenty of high-quality options for everything from water color to acrylic to homemade glue. They also have a great selection of traditional Japanese washi paper and combine Japanese makes as well as Western brands too.
They also run some classes in the building so if you need a little tutoring this shop could help out. The shop prides itself on serving the needs of everyone from the professional to the hobbyist, so there’s no need to feel nervous about heading in!
Pigment: Quality and quantity
Now this has to be the most beautiful of the art shops and a definite exception to the rule of don’t judge a book by its cover. This place looks fancy af, and it is. The store was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and features a beautiful bamboo slat interior. The array of over 4,200 pigments is stunning, and only the beginning. They stock both Japanese and foreign items, including the exceptional Zecchi, and source the best materials from around the world.
Keen to introduce traditional techniques to a younger audience, the shop staff are all highly-qualified, some with PhDs in their field. Combine that with rare and high-grade materials including over 200 antique ink sticks and 50 kinds of artisan animal glue and you’ll be spoiled for choice. They sell inkstones, frames, canvases and almost all of their paintbrushes are crafted by traditional craft masters of Japan. This place is basically so beautiful you’ll want to just walk around forever and then buy everything, so be careful!
Pigment (Shinagawa) Open 11.30am – 7pm, Closed Mondays & Thursdays
Bumpodo: For the class (and the classes)
Open since 1887, Bumpodo has not fallen behind with the times, but has retained it’s very classy style. Considered a serious art store they still carry a wide range of products from here and abroad, and welcome amateurs and experts alike. They were the first specialty art store in Japan to manufacture and sell oil based paints and later sold their own brushes, and while this is continued, they have branched out to stock a wide range of supplies from sculpting to engraving tools.
They offer art classes, but with quite some dedication: you can choose from 73 different courses as well as special 1-day-only courses. There is a gallery which can be rented for solo or group exhibitions and has a cafe, so this can make for a lovely afternoon break from shopping.
Bumpodo (Kanda) Open 10am – 7:30pm, No regular holidays.
This shop is a great all-rounder, with floors devoted to painting materials including easels, brushes, as well as other crafts and fine arts. They have a great paper selection which includes both foreign and Japanese papers of high quality. They sell their own fine brushes which are of a good quality and affordable too, so a good chance to get something unique. They also run an art school on the top floor (because who doesn’t) with relaxing painting classes run on Sundays.
Kinkado (Ikebukuro) Open: Weekdays 10am – 7pm, weekends & holidays 11am – 8pm. No regular holidays.
Loft & Tokyu Hands: The all-rounders
While neither are art shops specifically, both are well known for having everything you could ever need and more, and that includes art supplies. You can get anything from paper to brushes to frames here, and the bigger the store the better. While Loft may have better reputation for stationery, Tokyu Hands has more in terms of practical, like giant pieces of wood if you need them.