One of Japan’s iconic stationery brands is Tombow. The brand began when Harunosuke Ogawa opened a shop in Asakusa in 1913, releasing the Harunosuke Ogawa Pencil. This was followed by the launch of more pencils and sets, including the 10-yen Tombow Drawing Pencil in 1928, the country’s first full-scale drawing pencil.
Tombow has since produced numerous go-to Japanese stationery, including the renowned olive green Tombow 8900 pencil and the Mono Eraser, both staples of Japanese student stationery. One of their most recent innovations is the Mono 2-way Correction Tape, a super clever design that combines both correction tape and an eraser, released in 2012.
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Another legendary stationery brand is Sakura, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021. It is known for inventing the industry’s first gel ink technology seen in its Gelly Roll gel pens, released in 1984. This innovative product is both waterproof and fade-resistant, and it is now available in loads of fun colors at stationery stores across the country. Gel pens have become super popular ever since, with many brands offering their own versions, like Muji or Pentel.
Also known for its gel pens is Zebra. The company was started in 1914 and launched its first ballpoint pen in 1959, its first felt-tip pen in 1965, and its first double-ended marker and fluorescent marking pen in 1976.
According to Zebra’s website, their Sarasa Clip Gel Ink Rollerball pen was the No.1-selling gel pen in Japan in 2018. Manufactured from recycled materials, the pen is available in five point sizes and 57 different ink colors. Zebra has also developed many other products, including the Zebra Mildliner markers and brush pens. Available in 25 colors, these popular double-sided markers often pop up in searches for Japanese stationery.
Zebra is also recognized for the bLEN, a ballpoint pen designed to prevent vibration and noise while you write. Keeping comfort top of mind, this nifty product also makes use of emulsion ink, an ink that combines both oil and water for ease of writing.
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Pilot is also a brand with a wide range of stationery goods. Established in 1918, this iconic company released its first mechanical pencil in 1927, and started producing pens in the 1950s. While it is well-known for its iconic Vanishing Point (Capless) Fountain Pen, Pilot released another market first in 2015, the FriXion range of thermosensitive and erasable color felt-tip pens. This range includes gel pen sets, retractable fountain pens, ballpoint pens, highlighters, and fineliners.
Another popular fountain pen is the Preppy Fountain Pen from 102-year-old Japanese brand Platinum. The first iteration launched in 1979, and the company reported in 2017 that it had sold 10 million units of this much-loved product.
This same design-oriented thinking can be seen in the iconic Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil. This pencil comes complete with a mechanism that allows the lead to rotate, ensuring your writing is never plagued by thick, blurry lines. While this product was launched in 2008, the brand responsible for its design has a long history of producing high quality pencils.
Initially formed under the name Masaki Pencil Manufacturing Company in 1887, the company eventually changed its name to Mitsubishi Pencil in 1952. Uni, a sub-brand, released its first pencil in 1958, with pens and mechanical pencils coming in following years. Another example of notable Uni products is the Propus Window highlighter, which features a helpful window, so you can easily see what you are highlighting.
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Japanese stationery brands are known for more than pens and pencils. Long-standing Osaka-based stationery brand Kokuyo was established in 1905. It initially sold covers for accounting ledgers, but is now known for its wide variety of stationery items, such as erasers, notebooks, pencil cases, highlighters, planners, and a stapleless stapler.
In its 116-year history, it has released many well-known items. You might recognize Kokuyo by its award-winning Kadokeshi 28-corner eraser, the Harinacs staple-free stapler, or the Dotliner glue tape. The glue tape alone, according to Kokuyo’s website, sold one million units in its first eight months on the market.
One of the brand’s best-known items is the Kokuyo Campus Notebook, first launched in 1965. This tried-and-tested notebook is currently in its fifth iteration, and is popular with schoolchildren and adults alike.
Notebooks are also synonymous with MIDORI, a Japanese stationery brand that began by selling paper and envelopes in 1950. While MIDORI produces a number of stationery items, from scissors to correction tape, paper items are at its core. One example is the simply designed MD Notebook, which can open at 180 degrees to lay flat on a surface. The brand also produces journals, notepads, memo pads, diaries, calendars, and writing paper sets.
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Pencil cases are another popular stationery item, and Lihit Lab is one of the best Japanese stationery brands for pencil cases. While the company, which launched in 1905, has a vast range of products, its standing pen cases and pouches are worth mentioning, as they cleverly double up as handy pen stands, like their Hinemo Stand Pen Pouch. There are also the PuniLabo and Teffa Pen Case collections, made up of cute animal-inspired pen cases, like otters, bears, cats, rabbits, dogs, and penguins.
There are countless examples of Japanese stationery brands that produce top-quality writing tools and paper items. Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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