Last week I went to Osaka to visit the Insatsu (Printing) Expo (印刷エキスポ) which, despite its name, is more than just about printing. It was also a showcase of papers and design. The Expo was at Paper Voice (ペーパーボイス), the gallery of Heiwa Paper (平和紙), and as such, I was not surprised to find that most of the items on display were made with papers by Heiwa Paper. They have an amazing selection of paper with various finishes, weights, and textures, and if you are in search of something other than washi (though they have a collection of that as well) it’s not a bad place to start.

The Expo was presented as a classroom. I loved the community blackboard where visitors could leave comments. And the iconic randoseru (ランドセル) reproduced in paper! Elementary school students are immediately identifiable by these backpacks. Usually only found in red or black, it was novel to see them in so many different colors and patterns. What kid wouldn’t want one of these?

And all of the visitors, including myself, found ourselves playing musical chairs as we moved from desk to desk to see what treasures lie within. It was a terrific idea. Not only is there a sense of discovery as you pull out the drawer underneath, there is a space for you to lay it out and a chair for your viewing comfort. Great use of an everyday object.

And true to its theme, there were hands on activities. This is the letterpress corner where you could print your own name tag.

Of all the great design I saw there, my favorite are these boxes. Instead of simply being a container for something precious, the box itself is precious, being both vessel and subject. These boxes were not made to hold objects — they were made to hold an experience.

The thing that really made the Insatsu Expo shine was its open invitation for visitors to touch and engage. It was more than just a showcase — the Expo offered an experience, a memorable encounter with creativity.