Tokyo is a shopper's paradise, where you can get everything from artisanal ceramic tableware and trendy beauty products to upcycled fashion and discount goods. But why not take your retail therapy one step further by making something yourself? After all, nothing makes a better souvenir than something you've crafted by yourself under the guidance of the capital's finest artisans. For a more interactive shopping experience, try out the fun workshops – from making washi paper and origami to leather shoes and jewellery – at these speciality stores across Tokyo.
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Meet your maker
This small, charming Kichijoji workshop offers classes in making small leather goods and brass or silver jewellery to people of varying experience levels. There’s really no set formula here, and the friendly owner will help you craft anything you’re itching to make.
If you’re just visiting, you can choose from the ready-made items or have the owner customise something for you on the spot. Cool brass bracelets perfect for stacking and layering are available, as well as a variety of rings, like one made from a brass nail. Once customised to fit, items can be personalised with your name or a special message.
You’ll also find a Hiro Workshop pop-up at Inokashira Park’s Art Market every weekend, where you can get jewellery customised there and then.
Call or DM on Facebook to reserve a spot, or drop-in during opening hours. Bracelet workshops take at least 90 mins, with brass starting at ¥4,500 and silver at ¥8,000. Workshops for leather tote bags require two sessions and start at ¥6,000.
Whether it’s cranes, butterflies or something far more original, origami – traditional Japanese paper folding – has been practiced for centuries, and this is the country’s premier origami centre. You could do it yourself using the instructional books available for purchase, and selected origami paper packages in store come with instructions in English. Or, better still, sign up for a workshop (available in Japanese or English) and learn how to create all sorts of origami designs from the in-house experts.
The classes vary with the seasons, so in winter you might create Hinamatsuri dolls in time for the March festival, or you might learn how to make more practical items like origami jewellery or a year-round favourite, the crane. On the second floor there’s a small gallery featuring some amazing paper creations, while on the fourth floor you’ll find a studio dedicated to making washi paper. Check website for the monthly workshops and details on how to sign up.
Flowers, flowers and more flowers. South Korean import Marron Papier, whose original store is in Seoul, is a flower shop-meets-fashion boutique where you can stock up on all sorts of seasonal blooms, clothing and jewellery. This welcoming store also host frequent workshops where you can learn to craft everything from pretty floral crowns to bouquets. They’ve even got fashion styling services and beauty workshops if the latest Korean beauty trends float your boat.
Even if you don’t feel like getting stuck in, the space is still worth a visit for its totally Instagrammable interior where rustic furniture is accented with colourful blooms and a well-curated selection of clothing from Korea is artfully presented. For reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM via Line (@marronpapierjapan) or Instagram.
Ever dreamed of making your own pair of shoes? At this charmingly ramshackle Nakameguro store, you can become a cobbler for a day and custom-make your own pair of leather sandals or shoes with the help of the shop’s artisans.
Run by a friendly husband-and-wife duo, this homely shop sells ready-made leather goods like wallets and phone cases, although the leather workshops are the highlight. The leather is sourced from Tochigi prefecture, and you’ll need to set aside around six hours to complete your pair of shoes (classes usually run from 10am to 5pm).
If your wardrobe is already overflowing with footwear, you can opt to make a leather handbag instead. Just visit their website to select the item you’d like to make and you’ll be crafting your very own accessory in no time. Shoe workshops from ¥18,360. For reservations, DM them on Instagram or email email@example.com.
At this cheerful ink shop, you can customise your very own colour blend to use with fountain and ballpoint pens. The process is simple: at the self-order workshop (reservations necessary via website) you choose from a few basic colours, play around with the ratios until you get your perfect mix, and then submit your order at the shop.
After about 40 minutes, your ink set will be ready, including a receipt card with all your colour information in case you want to order the same mix again. If you need assistance, you can arrange for a staff member to help you customise your colour (no reservation necessary). While you’re waiting for your ink, take a walk over to Inkstand’s sister shop Kakimori, where you can stock up on stationery goods to showcase your snazzy new colours. From ¥2,700 per bottle.
At this longstanding store and cultural centre, you can discover the beauty of Japanese washi paper – and try making it yourself. The first floor houses a tea shop where you can stock up on paper and calligraphy goods, and the Washi Experience Studio, where you can learn how to make washi paper at its frequent workshops.
The second floor gallery space hosts weekly exhibitions and guest washi craftsmen from around Japan, plus the Ozu Culture School, where serious students can sign up for a variety of classes. Finally, the third floor houses the informative Ozu History Museum, which details the many types of washi from various Japanese regions. Information is available in English and you can touch and feel the different types of paper. The washi-making workshop takes an hour, and you can bring your paper home with you on the same day.
Various workshops available. Washi-making classes ¥500 for one A4 sheet of paper; private lessons also available at ¥3,500 each. Workshop time and reservations can be made here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop-ins possible depending on availability.
Ever wondered how indigo-dyed items are made? Learn more about aizome (indigo dyeing) at Kosoen Studio, a serene spot situated way out west in the city of Ome, an hour and a half by train from central Tokyo. Surrounded by lush mountains and clean air, Kosoen has been developing and dyeing with aizome since the early 1900s. The Murata family that runs the company has been in the textile business for over a century, but two of the Murata brothers decided to open Kosoen Studio in 1989 to continue the craft of natural indigo dyeing, colouring everything from garments to interior decor. The studio offers a dyeing experience for those interested in trying out aizome (from ¥1,600), as well as an adjoining store selling clothing and accessories that the Muratas have designed and dyed themselves.
Tucked down a quaint street in Asakusa, Wanariya is one of the few aizome shops in the city where you can shop for beautifully indigo-dyed garments and a plethora of accessories including hats, bags and scarves. Did you know that there are 48 different shades of indigo? The shop does a great job at offering a wide array of those, with products ranging from the lightest of blues to deep dark indigo hues. For those who want to try dyeing something themselves, the shop organises walk-in classes where you can try colouring a handkerchief or Japanese ‘tenugui’ hand towel for only ¥1,920. The entire aizome process takes about 30 minutes, making it the perfect activity to add to your day in Asakusa. They also have a separate studio (1-8-10 Senzoku, Taito-ku), where you'll be able to dye T-shirts, bags and more (reservation only).
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