These days artists supplies can be found easily and cheaply on the web. http://www.jacksonsart.com is one I have used frequently when back in the UK. But nothing beats the ability to see and touch the products right in front of you, and Japan once again comes up retailing trumps with Sekaido and its flagship store in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Sekaido has been purveying artists materials for over 75 years since its opening in 1940 (obviously survived despite the US bomb-flattening the city, happy proof that art can flourish in the most unlikely of circumstances?).
Now it boasts 12 stores throughout the country. The pride and joy however remains the main branch, situated east of the giant transport hub that is Shinjuku station.
If you are in any way artistically inclined then you must make time to check it out. Ignore - or admire - the cheeky irreverence of the shop logo (Mona Lisa `surprised`) as you enter. Spread out before you in sumptuous abandon is a world class assortment of everything and anything to do with art.
Arranged over SIX substantial floors this place has it all - paints, brushes, canvas, easels, media, framing, stationery, paper, sculpture, manga, sumie, pencils, felt tips, arts and crafts...and then some.
The selection is mind-boggling. You want oil paints? Well you will find just about every brand you have ever heard of - Winsor and Newton, Holbein, Old Holland, Gamblin, Da Vinci, Kusakabe...and many others you won`t have. Mediums? Not a problem. Canvas frames, canvas rolls, ready made stretched canvas in 237 different sizes - or you can order a custom size for that rather special artwork you have in mind. Easels, palettes, kits for plein air. Gallons of gesso.
As a kid I used to look forward to my trips to the sweetshop. These days its not aniseed balls, toffee bon bons or wine gums but Quinacridone Rose, Naples Yellow and Prussian Blue. Names that carry the same exotic sense of anticipated pleasure.
When supplies run low I make the pilgrimage to 3-1-1 Shinjuku with no less frisson of excitement than I did 50 years ago when in search of a quarter pound of pontefract cakes. Kid in a sweet shop? Thats me, thanks to the mecca that is Sekaido. http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/venue/21905/Sekaido-Shinjuku