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Tourists Flock to Ginza Itoya, the World Famous Stationary Shop

With tourism booming in Japan, we visited our favorite stationery destination Ginza Itoya to hear from the ground why travelers have been so eager to come back.

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Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023. (© JAPAN Forward)

"Coming to Japan has been on my bucket list for a very long time," said a woman from Madrid, Spain. She was clearly thrilled about being in Ginza Itoya, a stationery store in Japan noted for its high-quality items. 

The store is impossible to miss. The red paper clip logo stands out in the chic shopping neighborhood of Ginza, in Tokyo. People from all over the world flock to this 12-floor building to discover Japanese craftsmanship. 

"Everything is so beautiful and delicate, it's a fabulous store," said the visitor from Spain.

Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

Returning Vibrance

The return of inbound travelers to Japan has picked up over the past months. In October 2022, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that tourists could enter the country again, for the first time since April 2020. 

The return to normality is palpable. On May 8, walking around Harajuku and Takeshita Street, a popular tourist destination, foreign tourists seemingly outnumbered the locals. When we entered a nearby 12-seater restaurant, which was fully booked, only the staff were speaking Japanese. 

Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

According to the Japan Tourism Organization (JNTO), 1.8 million people visited Japan in March 2023, which is equivalent to 66% of the number who visited in March 2019.

Still, it might take time for tourist figures to return to pre-pandemic levels. Japan only fully relaxed entry restrictions on April 29, lifting the requirement of a three-dose COVID-19 vaccine certificate to visit Japan. The flow of Chinese tourists has also yet to recover fully.

Honeymoon in Japan

Yet, the joyful return of tourists was prevalent in Ginza Itoya on May 1. 

Ginza Itoya's 8th-floor manager, Tomoko Tanaka, explains that tourists have returned to the store in full swing, "On some days, foreign visitors account for 80% of our customers. Stationery is really popular. The number of visitors is still a little lower than before COVID-19, but the customers' enthusiasm is really contagious, it really shines through." 

Tomoko Tanaka, who manages the 8th floor of Ginza Itoya, on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

One couple we spoke to had come from Canada to enjoy a 72-day honeymoon in Japan. 

They explained how, before the pandemic, they had resolved to come back to Japan. "We got engaged in Ueno Park in 2019. We had just missed the sakura [cherry blossom] season by a week or two, so we decided to come back and experience the whole thing!"

A Canadian couple at Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

From the sounds of it, it has been the trip of a lifetime. The couple explained that they had been on a sakura hunt across the Japanese archipelago since February 27. "We traveled from Kagoshima all the way up to Aomori, so we are having a great time," said the newly-wedded husband. 

And his newly-wedded wife had a specific goal for coming to Ginza Itoya: Last-minute shopping for high-quality stationery at reasonable prices. 

"I'm obsessed with stationery. The second day we were here I almost spent $200 USD in [Tokyu] Hands," she explained. 

Complimenting Japanese quality goods, she exclaimed, "You can't find anything like this in Canada, and even if you do, it's very pricey."

A sushi birthday card at Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

Kawaii and Anime Culture

One visitor we met was a woman in her 30s from Mexico, who was only in Tokyo for a day. Out of all the places she could choose, she decided to come to Ginza Itoya.

A tourist from Mexico at Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

"It was my dream to come to Japan," she said. "I like stationery, and I like cute things. I'm very excited — it's totally different from where I come from."

She further explained that she was on a quest to find stationery for her boyfriend, an aspiring manga artist. Specific colored markers were recommended to him for the craft. 

Akihabara, the mecca for anime and subculture fans, is the next stop on her whirlwind trip. "I'm shopping right now because we only have a layover for one day. It's super fast!"

Creatively designed packs of tea at Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

Thrilling to Travel Again

One woman from California, United States, enthusiastically shared all the things she was looking forward to seeing in Japan: "I love Japanese culture and art, and the whole zen of the culture, so I'm very excited to be able to see gardens and temples."

A tourist from the United States at Ginza Itoya on May 1, 2023 (© JAPAN Forward)

She also reflected on how everyone on her tour was pleased to be traveling once more. "Everyone seems to be happy to be alive and interacting because everyone has a story about what 2020 was like."  

"It's thrilling to have this as my first opportunity to be out again and learn more about the world," she concluded.  

But of course, the learning could come after buying a set of origami paper at Ginza Itoya, she said laughing. 


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Author: Arielle Busetto