Paper is not Dead
In a world rife with proclamations that paper is dead, one would never suspect it in Japan. Stationery stores still abound with a full array of shapes, patterns and purposes of their stock—small gift cards to multi-page love letter stationery sets; cheesy flower ones to sophisticated screen-printed patterns. The almost-sacred exchange of business cards (meishi) still dominates business interactions. Retail or bakery purchases are often wrapped in paper donning a charming design. The hippest of stores down to the 100 yen (dollar) shops have notebook selections with a variety of sizes, patterns and layouts—spiral bound, flash cards strung through on small key-rings, calendars, list-making pages, and of course others for sketching. Many places have stamps for visitors to mark their journey in their notebooks. Even more interesting is the hanko tradition: instead of affirming with a signature, the Japanese use a name stamp to sign documents. It seems as if every business—be it restaurant, hair salon, or store—has a small takeaway card (cooler than your normal business card). Bigger stores, by what seems to be a retail law, have exquisite catalogues, usually printed on high quality paper, often letterpressed or debossed on the cover—sometimes even with a print-run count on them, and are often bound in a creative (expensive) method.
The tangibility of it all is quite refreshing, might I say, grounding. No, my friend, paper is not dead, but rather thriving.