Wondering where I should start, the first place that came to my mind was the stationery store, Ginza Itoya, in Ginza 2-chome. I am writing this essay at the time of year (November 2015) for my annual stroll in Ginza – when I go to Itoya to purchase a new monthly planner. Every year I purchase an “AT·A·GLANCE” planner, made in the U.S.. It is the type of planner in which you write your schedule in daily blocks on a monthly calendar. The oldest planner kept in my closet is from 1986, which means that assuming that this was my first purchase, my year’s end visit to Itoya as continued for thirty years now.
I was also curious to explore their recently renewed building.
I got off the subway and walked down Ginza Dori from the Ginza 4-chome intersection toward Kyobashi. Ginza has entered a reconstruction boom and since the Mikimoto building is currently under construction, I missed the famous Christmas tree this year. However, the Japanese yew trees lining the sidewalks should soon be illuminated. On the east side of Ginza 3-chome stands Matsuya Ginza, with Louis Vuitton on the first floor. Then, crossing Marronnier Dori and passing by Bulgari in Ginza 2-chome, I arrived at Itoya, a long and narrow building with a glass facade. With Tiffany standing next to Itoya, this part of Ginza has become truly high-end.
The red paper clip symbolizes Itoya. On the glass window facing the street, a round emblem depicting a fountain pen and ink says “1904-2015,” with 2015 representing the year when the new building was built, and 1904, the year of the store’s establishment.
The year 1904 is ten years before the word “Ginbura” was coined and the 37th year of the Meiji period. Historically, it is a time when the Russo-Japanese War had broken out and postcards were printed one after another to convey the succession of victories.
“A long queue would form in front of Itoya before it opened because people wanted to purchase the latest postcard. People said that Itoya expanded its business through postcard sales.”
(One Hundred Year History of Ginza Itoya)
To go back in Itoya’s corporate history, the founder, Shotaro Ito was born into a family running an import merchandiser business in Ginza 7-chome (former Takekawacho). Shotaro had a store in Hakuhinkan, in its Teikoku Hakuhinkan Kankoba days, but when the stationery store next door proposed to sell their business to him, he decided to change his trade. He soon opened Itoya in Ginza 3-chome, in a corner of the area where Matsuya Ginza stands today. It was a brick building with a narrow storefront of around 5.4 meters and a signboard that said “和漢洋文房具 GENERAL JOB PRINTERS BOOKBINDERS STATIONERY” in gold letters on a white board that gave it a sophisticated look.
Itoya’s hit product of its early years were postcards associated with the Russo-Japanese war, and today, and it still sells postcards on the first floor. Since it was the holiday season, a variety of Christmas postcards and letter writing sets were on display. I would say the atmosphere of the ground floor is unchanged from before the store’s renewal. Somewhat restlessly, I chose a few Christmas cards and New Year’s cards and headed for the fourth floor, where the planners would be. The new building basically has an escalator on the left side and the cashier to the right or in the back.
On the first to fourth floor, they sell mainly conventional stationery, including cards, writing instruments, notebooks and planners. Their world opens up on te fifth floor and above, where they carry a wide range of products, from travel goods to interior items, such as cups and cushions, and also an area specializing in paper. The eleventh floor holds surprises. Getting off the elevator, I was welcomed by lettuce lit up in the window. Frilled lettuce was being grown at the indoor farm on the other side of the glass.
“Frilled lettuce currently in cultivation
Grown 9 days, to be harvested in 31 days
Temperature: 26℃ Humidity: 67％