A Tokyo store that’s a shrine to Japanese art and culture

This treasure trove of Japanese fine art and culture is a place of beauty in its own right and a rich mine of design and gift inspiration

Masayoshi Nojo, the artist who runs the store
Masayoshi Nojo, the artist who runs the store | Image: Jérémie Souteyrat

Only in Japan could an art-supply store look this beautiful. Situated in a former office on Tokyo’s burgeoning Tennozu Isle, Pigment houses one of the world’s finest collections of traditional materials. The striking interior, featuring a canopied ceiling of undulating bamboo, is the work of noted architect Kengo Kuma, who collaborated with longtime friend Yoshihisa Nakano, CEO of global art-storage firm Warehouse Terrada, to create this 200sq m zen oasis that will appeal equally to artists, art lovers and aesthetes. 

Washi papers (from ¥1,200, about £8 per roll)
Washi papers (from ¥1,200, about £8 per roll) | Image: Jérémie Souteyrat

Pigment is dedicated to the “preservation of craft, history, culture and techniques that are specific to Asia,” says Masayoshi Nojo, the artist who runs the store. This translates into an intriguing array of materials and tools that are also beautiful keepsakes of Japan’s rich artistic heritage. Take the myriad washi papers (from ¥1,200, about £8 per roll) made from kozo and mulberry pulp in Japan since 610AD, which include “rare types [about £350] decorated with gold foil that resemble a snowfall,” says Nojo; traditionally used for painting and origami, as well as making lamps and umbrellas, today they could be used to create delightful cards. The store’s signature fine-bamboo papers (about £3.50), meanwhile, are perfect for those looking to experiment with Japanese ink, writing swirling calligraphic notes.

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When it comes to brushes, a whole wall that looks every inch an art installation is given over to a scene-stealing sculptural display featuring some 600 handmade examples in every size, shape and material imaginable. For calligraphy, the Simon Honegaki brushes (from about £14.35) are good for beginners, while the finely tipped Siberian sable Meisei (about £85-£265) are among the most prized instruments. True connoisseurs are also catered to: a pair of antique Chinese goat-hair brushes (about £5,575) are inlaid with silver filigree and set within an elegant carved red sandalwood box.

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Beautiful yet less rarefied are the boxes of Kogaboku inksticks (from about £35) from the 1970s, while the accompanying inkstones, used for grinding ink, would also make an aesthetic gift – be it a simple rectangular version (about £45) or something more intricate. A rare Chinese inkstone (price on request), made from volcanic purple-red duan stone during either the Tang or Song dynasty, is part of the store’s museum-quality collection. 

The space is a mine of creative inspiration; at its heart is the multishelved wall displaying 4,500 glass vials of the namesake pigments (from about 70p for 15g), arranged in vibrant shades from lapis lazuli to vermilion. These can be mixed into paints or simply provide a starting point for a refined interior design scheme. But this is not a look-but-don’t-touch type of place; visitors are encouraged to “sample the brushes and colours and to experiment before buying” on a large central table that at weekends hosts workshops and demonstrations. “We showcase the traditions of the pigments. In Asia at least, our space is unique,” says Nojo. “We want people – trained artists and novices alike – to make discoveries each time they visit.”

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