De Monsterkamer

A pilgrimage to the Takeo paper showroom in Tokyo

Having spent a few months assisting at De Monsterkamer, admiring the sample display on a daily basis, I was well familiar with the name Takeo before my visit to Japan. They have the (dare I say it?) most beautiful sample box I’ve seen. Although only a limited selection is marketed in Europe, it’s definitely not impossible to get their paper for your project. It won’t be as easy as Tokyo locals will have it though: they can just take the metro to visit their local showroom.

The Takeo Paper Showroom and shop is located in Jinbōchō, the area known as Tokyo’s centre of used-book stores and publishing houses. It took me a while to find it, although this was entirely my own fault. I expected it to be somewhere on the 14th floor of a building, or down an alley. At first I didn’t think to look right on the ground floor of the main street, so it took a bit of asking around to find. I got the message: Takeo is a big player in Japan.

The first thing to notice when walking in is the prominently displayed bottle of hand sanitizer: you better not have grubby fingers when touching these samples. The immaculate feel is reinforced by a stark white room with shiny walls. Upon closer inspection these reveal themselves to contain drawers upon drawers of numbered samples. To the left of the space is a storage room for larger sheets of paper, to the right is what appears to be a cutting room with a paper size diagram on the wall.

I instantly recognised the famous Takeo sample box, sitting at a special ordering station. Small paper samples are arrange by colour on display tables throughout the space. It is great fun strolling through the room, inspecting random paper samples here and there, and thinking about the cool stuff you could use them for. Scroll down to see some of the most unusual samples I could find.

I’m not sure what I expected, possibly more of a museum function, or that the showroom just functioned as a window display for the Takeo offices, but it was great to see people really come in and look for paper. While we were there, in the morning on a weekday, I saw at least three customers come in and be advised on their projects. Beside paper samples, there were several Takeo projects on display, as well as notebooks and other items that are for sale. Upstairs is an exhibition space, as well as a more extensive gift shop. Unfortunately, this space isn’t as beautifully stark as the downstairs, although it is lined with heavy floating shelving. The current exhibition was an informative one about FSC certifying, with panels text in Japanese, but Takeo also hosts more art-like exhibitions.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realise until after leaving Tokyo that there are multiple showrooms in the city. Apparently the Jinbōchō space focuses more on educating the general public about paper, and a second one, in Shibuya, is aimed at design professionals. It’s a shame not to have been able to compare the two, and this second space is definitely on my list for future visits. Visiting the Takeo paper showroom was a strange but inspiring experience, and Tokyo is lucky to have this ode to paper at its disposal.

Locations of Showrooms and information about current programming can be found here.
Photos and text: Eva Hoevenaar

by Eva Hoevenaar