Japan: A Paper Country

This isn’t to say that they are a country that is flimsy or easily destroyed by rain; I mean that Japan really loves its paper. A lot. It manifests itself in many ways that are a bit baffling and even exciting to foreigners. Let’s do a quick review of my own experience with paper pushing here in Japan.


Japan is on point with its stationary game. Cute designs and elaborate cards are the name of the game, and most specialty shops will have all sorts of goods for your stationery needs. Elaborate folding cards roll out every season with incredible detail that will impress even some of the most hardened card skeptics. Japan also has special paper called washi paper, which is made from local fibers and has a unique texture from paper you would expect from Western manufacture. Because of this uniqueness, they also sell special rolls of tape, washi tape, that can be used to secure washi envelopes and decorate washi paper. The variety of washi tape is amazing, and seeing small stacks of tape in homes would not be unheard of!

Japanese Greeting Cards - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com
These cards are 3D, have lights, and play music. Serious coolness to be had!


One of the negatives is the amount of paperwork here in Japan. Literal paperwork. When you enter government buildings (not pictured because most of these places prohibit photography), you’ll see massive shelves filled with folders and binders of paper. You’ll have to fax, file, and receive papers on a fairly regular basis if you have any sort of government issues you need resolved, especially immigration issues!

Paper is so important that one of the most important things any professional can have in Japan is the hanko, or name stamp. It has your family name on the stamp and you use it to verify everything from government forms to delivery forms for your Amazon order. Red ink is the order of the day and you’ll be able to stamp a wide variety of items. I assume this is a carry-over from the Chinese-inspired bureaucracy from Japan’s history, but it could just be because they enjoy that tactile experience of stamping. Sometimes, it is pretty satisfying!

Paper Recycling

How to Wash Milk Carton - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com
Handy instructions on how to wash and dry your milk carton!

With all that paper comes a brief introduction to the intense garbage system in Japan. They have days specifically for paper waster when you can dispose of cardboard, old magazines, mail, and so forth. The typical protocol is to tie all of your paper into a stack and place that out into your designated garbage disposal area. This includes all of your cardboard juice and milk cartons, which must be washed and dried before they are put out for collection. While this sounds like a hassle, it isn’t too bad once you know what to expect. Most cartons even come with hand directions on how best to wash them!

It’s been interesting to see all of these aspects and live with them in my time here. They come with good and bad points but I really like the good, particularly all the recycling and awesome stationary.

What do you think of Japan’s take on paper? Let me know in the comments below!


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