Toyko Matsuya Washi paper show/sales room

Tokyo Matsuya is a Japanese Edo Karakami washi paper producer established in 1690. Edo Karakami is the hand-crafted patterned washi paper for interior decorating such as Fusuma sliding doors and folding screens. It has been handmade by artisans in downtown Tokyo since the Edo Period.

Tokyo Matsuya Showroom5

multi-panel screen using Edo karakami (thick printed) paper

Japanese motifs and craft of Edo Karakami paper ooze traditional charm but its modern allures match minimalist aesthetics of any current day designs.  There’s something about the proper repetition and perfect placement of symbols (cloud, wave) and natural motifs (flowers of all sorts) that’s just the right.

This was my second time in the Tokyo Matsuya show/sales room, first time binge-buying paper not having thought through how to find a craftsman aid outside Japan who can help me turn paper into something useful. Applying washi paper on surfaces like plaster or wood veneer panels requires traditional technique using glutinous glue (made from rice) and I simply couldn’t find skilled help in Hong Kong. So the second time I came determined to delegate to Matsuya craftsman creating to finish them into hanging wall panels. I discovered that the elderly gentleman who adeptly gift wrapped my sheets with precision and ease in my previous visit happened to be that craftsman. He took dimensions, details of the rail hanging parts placement, and back panel paper suggestions. Like the last time I was there, I was the only customer during almost 90 minute visit and a handsome young female attendant followed me around to assist with mixing and matching paper texture and print colors.

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one of the showrooms using the Matsuya paper for walls and screen doors

I ordered two wall hanging panels 180 x 80 (cm), in two colors both in cloud motif with wires and hanging parts.  They were delivered to my address in Tokyo in just over two weeks.  Two panel screen will set you back from Y20,000 and up and a simple panel (regardless of size) will go about Y70,000 each (for medium range paper 20,000 per sheet).

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2nd floor showroom and the long desk where paper would be paid out for selection

On the 1st floor is a gift shop perfect for small souvenirs such as paper fans, stationary and gift boxes of all shapes and sizes and is worth a visit on its own.

Tokyo Matsuya Paper Showroom

Open 9am-5pm

6-1-3, Higashiueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Tokyo metro Inaricho Station)


One Hundred Views of Edo by Hiroshige at Suntory Museum of Art

At the time of writing, Suntory Museum of Art in Midtown, Roppongi is exhibiting Utagawa Hiroshige’s One Hundred Views of Edo and Famous Views of Sixty-odd Provinces (collection of Japanese businessman Hara Yasusaburo).  These two series, almost all in superb condition, are being exhibited in their entirety which must be a rare occurrence.


Suntory Museum of Art focuses on special exhibition with no permanent exhibit

First briefly on Suntory Museum of Art, which deserve an article on its own and one day I hope to return to, is a mid-sized museum on the 3rd and 4th floors of Tokyo Midtown Galleria. The museum is designed by Kengo Kuma in modern Japanese aesthetics (read a lot of light beech wood in hush and dim lighting).  Presentations are centered on special exhibits with no permanent exhibition although it is said to have a collection of 3,000 works of Japanese painting, lacquerware, textiles and other arts. On premise are a cafe, tea ceremony room and a small but fantastic museum store abound with classical Japanese everyday goods, stationary and original collection incorporating the special exhibition motifs. Museum store can be accessed by public through the 3rd floor and is fascinating to browse on its own right for souvenirs.

Back to Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川 広重, also Andō Hiroshige: 安藤 広重;
1797 – 1858).  Hiroshige, a ukiyo-e artist and considered the last great master of that tradition, is best known for his landscapes, such as this series in exhibition One Hundred Views of Edo and Famous Views of Sixty-odd Provinces. Typically ukiyo-e genre (the term ukiyo-e 浮世絵 translates as ‘pictures of the floating world’) is associated with beautiful women, popular actors, sumo wrestlers and scenes from history and folk tales of urban pleasure in the Edo period (17th through 19th century) but Hiroshige’s work leans heavily to the natural – land and seascapes, birds and flowers.


I’m mesmerized at colour separation in the prints through gentle ink seepage. Where deep magenta sky fades to pale pink and the ground  changes colour from myrtle to indigo, I’m lost in The Plum Garden in Kamiedo.  Vantage point into The Plum Garden is typically Hiroshige in which one peers into the distant landscape framed by an everyday Japanese object in the foreground like circular window, bridge planks  and, in this case, plum tree. Van Gogh copy painted a few works of Hiroshige including The Plum Garden.


The Plum Garden in Kamiedo


The popular Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series by Katsushika Hokusai was a strong influence on Hiroshige and are also included in this exhibition. Although Hokusai name may be foreign, many would notice some of the Mount Fuji scenes or The Great Wave that secured Hokusai’s fame both in Japan and overseas.


Suntory Museum of Art Tokyo Midtown

Tokyo Midtown Galleria 3fl, Akasaka 9-7-4, Minato-ku, Tokyo

10am-6pm (until 8pm on Fri, Sat). Closed Tue (unless Tue is public holiday)

Admission JPY 1,300