A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15

Matsuda Bookbinding Experience

sunny 12 °C
View Japan 2023 on nattybats's travel map.

A slow morning organising laundry. We have a plan set out for today. First up, at 10am is a traditional book making workshop. Then we're planning on going to the Pokemon Centre for merchandise for me and then Kiddy Land for a gift for a friend of Em's. If we feel up to it, we're then going to a temple or two.

We head off in plenty of time to make it to the Matsuda Bookbinding workshop. It is run by Mr Matsuda and his daughter Yoko-san. Mr Matsuda is 76 years old. He had been up at 4am binding thesis from the local Universities.

They let us into their home/workshop. Shoes off - slippers on. Seats taken. We're joined a little while later by 2 Aussies from Melbourne who are really lovely. We've been very lucky with the co-workshop participants that we've had along the way.

First up we need to choose the kimono material. Em chooses one that is dyed with local plants and I choose a simple black, textured piece with a bright aqua fan print on it. Yoko-san informs me that it was from Kimono designed for Louis Vuitton. Then we choose the colour of our ribbon for the book mark, the thread to bind the pages with, and the inner cover.

Matsuda-san makes the process look easy as he whips through the steps and tries to show us how to do it.

Stitch the 5 groups of pages together and tie the ends off in a particular way so that they stay in place. I race ahead as the needlework is easy - but then have to undo it as I've missed a step :( Pages bound together. That was the easy bit!

Place the front, back, and spine cardboard in the kimono material (that is backed in paper to make it easier for novices like us). Then space them out evenly. Once he has glanced over it and given his approval, trace around the corners of the 3 bits of cardboard.

Next comes the application of the glue with the brush that is made from sheep's wool! There is a precise way with which to do everything and we do it under the watchful eye of Yoko-san and her father. Front, back, spine glued in place. Nerve wracking!

Now we have to fold the material around the edges of the cardboard. We cut the corners of the material so it is easier to fold. Matsuda-san tells us to make 'small mountains'. My 'small mountains' look much more like Fuji-san and I say this to Matsuda-san much to his delight. Thankfully, we were always going to go home with a beautiful book because Matsuda-san fixes everything we stuff up!

Sides and corners glued down. Now to glue the material onto the paper so that it can be held in place within the cover. A precise way to do each step.

Finally our paper is glued in place inside the covers and the inner linings are placed and glued down. We're done. Now to practice embossing. I choose to have my name in Hiragana placed in the back of the book and the kanji for Kyoto and the year placed at the front. Matsuda-san helps us by doing the placement and ensuring we don't completely muck it up.

Em and I are both thrilled with the outcome and as a parting gift, Matsuda-san gives us another book, one that he has made. Now we can compare ours to his superior craftsmanship for the rest of eternity!

We share tea and snacks together and in amongst all of this, Yoko-san tells us the story of her family and how they changed from making kimonos to bookbinding. She also shares much of the history of her city. She is proud of her heritage and her city and it shows. Yet another amazing experience and so much better than simply showing up at a temple or shrine and ticking it off.


Next we duck down to the Kyoto Pokemon Centre. I have coveted the Pikachu in kimono that can only be bought in Kyoto for years now. I was all ready to buy the three of them - red, blue, and green. After searching around for sometime I give in and ask a store worker "Kimonno pikachū wa doko desu ka. Where are the pikachu in kimono? He is surprised (here we go again)....and says sumimasen (excuse me). So I repeat it again. Now his brain is able to decipher a westerner speaking Japanese and he replies with "so sorry, sold out".

I'm actually pretty disappointed as I'd wanted these for years. Em picks up a couple of things and I resign myself to the fact that I'm not getting anything special from the Kyoto Pokemon centre.

And then. As I've all but given up hope, Em spies these beauties.


They also have them dressed as a regular Western bride and groom but I have no interest in these. We head around to the checkout and I have a great conversation with the checkout lady about whether we want 2 medium or 1 large bag - we go with the 1 large. She asks if I speak nihon-go - chotto (a little) I reply. She asks if I play Pokemon-go and I pull out my phone and show her. Now I'm being swamped with special stickers, a Pikachu origami, and some special deals. This learning a language is paying off in spades!!!

Next stop, Kiddy Land, just around the corner. Em had promised to buy her friend some terrible Sailor Moon merchandise. I stay outside, not trusting myself around Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh, the cute thing that I bought a manga of but can't understand the font (fail!), and god knows what else I would desperately need in there. Mission accomplished, Em comes back outside and we go back to the hotel to dump our stuff off. We have vague plans of heading to a temple but we decide to flop on the bed instead. Uber eats in some katsu which doesn't agree with me and we have an early night - full day of traipsing around Kyoto with Kuzu tomorrow.

Posted by nattybats 08:59 Archived in Japan

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The book binding sounds like a great experience. But then almost every step has been a great experience.
Totally agree that learning the language has paid off in so many ways. It speaks volumes for the respect you have for the people.
Way to go Nat and Em.

by greynomadm

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