While you will certainly find abundant washi tape made by several different companies in shops throughout Japan, since we were in Tokyo, we wanted to visit the original masking tape company, mt.
mt lab is a small shop filled with washi tape made by mt: masking tape. The mt lab started out as a temporary studio, where you had to make an appointment to visit, but it’s now open to the public, and you can visit anytime during their opening hours. It’s located in Taito City, Tokyo, and, true to form like the best of small shops, tucked away down a few quiet, residential streets.
mt: masking tape is the original producer of washi tape as we now know it, and they have released hundreds of different patterns (many of which I now own/hoard), including collaborations with artists. The masking tape is produced in Kurashiki-Shi, Japan, by a company called Kamoi, established in 1923, originally developing and manufacturing sticky fly-catching paper. Over time they’ve produced various adhesives as well as industrial or craft types of tape, including tapes made with the strong, Japanese washi paper, which is also easily removable. Eventually several solid coloured washi tapes were made, and then: a revolution.
While, with a tight schedule and two kids, this was pretty low on the priority list (Jon’s decision), the fates smiled down on us as we happened to be in the neighbourhood and found ourselves with a few extra minutes (ho ho, Jon).
Alas (thank goodness) we didn’t know anyone behind the scenes here, so we were just arriving as the standard adoring masses. I, the standard adoring masses, the rest of the family, just there watching me.
The mt lab also has a few exclusive tapes that you can only find at this shop. The shop itself is beautiful and white and glorious, which is both magnificent to look at and panic-inducing when you arrive with two children, one of whom is slightly wild.
Interestingly, in Japan, they most commonly refer to washi tape as “masking tape.” This was initially quite upsetting to me, frankly, to me, as masking tape is the kind of tape you give your four year old when he says he needs something to tape “something fun I promise” and you can’t bear to look. But if you can’t trust the Japanese to know what they’re talking about when they’re talking about stationery, you’re lost.
And so I left with a small bag of washi tape.
Throughout the rest of my time in Japan, I continued to amass rolls of washi tape, generally one or two at a time, but visiting this shop was the one that tipped me down the hill. I recently used an entire roll to tape a tripod to a window to take a video, and thus have proven to Jon that washi tape is not entirely without practical, real-life use, but his response was more along the lines of you used washi tape to secure your phone hanging out a window?
Japan is well known for being a very concentrated dose of stationery, and in this well-knownedness are several, dare I say, famous stationery shops: Itoya, the Maruzen bookshops, entire floors of department stores—all well worth a visit. However, during this trip, we were fortunate enough to stumble across or be introduced to a few other shops that I’m hoping to write about.
I have several more forthcoming blog posts that I have stored up in notes and photos floating around loose in the abyss of the cloud. At the end of it all, should I ever reach it, I’m hoping to do a more concise recap, so you can see some of the places that we visited that we might recommend, with links back to posts so you can click to see more detail if you’d like. Please bear with me as I plow and sort through all the photos and loose receipts. Stay tuned. Lots and lots more to come.
In other news, we’re in Hong Kong! We made it. It was hairy.
It’s incredibly hot and humid here, although I hear it’s also pretty hot in Toronto these days—we’re all just sweltering on different parts of the planet, sort of a lovely, if catastrophic thought.
Our itinerary is slowing down now, so hopefully I will have a bit of time to catch up on the blogging backlog. A great deal of energy has been expended hunting down things—diapers, a tripod, the right kind of yoghurt—but it’s been nice to settle down as we acclimate to a new country.