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Why Is Japanese Stationery So Good?!

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From mechanical pencils that rotate as you write and top-of-the-range brush pens to nifty pencil cases, rollerball pens and beautifully crafted paper products, the best Japanese stationery is synonymous with quality and innovative design. If buying new stationery and trying out some new fountain pen ink is something that brings you great joy, then there are bound to be more than a few Japanese stationery items at the top of your wish list!

So, why is Japanese stationery so good? In Japan, learning to write by hand is encouraged from a young age, and the art of calligraphy is lovingly practiced by people of all ages. It is, therefore, important that the tools offer the best user experience. 

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While the standard campus notebook will suffice, a lot of thought goes into the design of Japanese stationery, regardless of whether it is being used by children at school or professional artists. Apart from the precision, usability, and creativity of so many items, just a quick look at the number of stores dedicated to stationery of every kind is proof of its timeless popularity.

Apart from being able to buy a wide range of options online, Japanese stationery can also be found in specialty stationery stores across the country, as well as in multilevel stores like Tokyu Hands, MUJI, LOFT, and Daiso which have entire sections (and sometimes floors!) dedicated to stationery of all kinds. Arguably one of the most well-known stationery destinations is the flagship Ginza store of 117-year-old brand Itoya. Here, you get seven floors dedicated primarily to stationery, from greeting cards to scissors. You can even write and post a letter directly from the second floor SHARE space, or create your own customized notebook a couple of levels up. 

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Kakimori in Taito-ku believes that “some things can only be said on paper” and that “a pen contains more than just ink”. As at Itoya, here you are also able to get a custom-made notebook created, as well as mix your very own bottle of ink through its Inkstand platform, both of which can be brought back to the store to be refilled with your chosen favorites. Kyukyodo, which has specialized in calligraphy products since 1663, is another spot worth a visit for any stationery collector.

If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese stationery and are wondering what kinds of things you will find on your next shopping trip, there are some award-winning products worth taking note of. The fact that there is a dedicated award for Stationery of the Year in Japan (given at the International Stationery & Office Products Fair) should tell you a lot about the significance placed on stationery. 

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This year, the 30th edition of the annual fair was held, which saw a selection committee choose the winners based on the categories of Functionality and Design. The Grand Prix Design award went to stationery brand Kumpel for its train ticket-inspired message cards, celebrating the traditional kippu (train ticket). Other winners included a notebook designed by Daigo Corp. that fits perfectly on a desk in front of a 15-inch laptop, and the multipurpose (and super colorful!) Outdoor Tape by mikke design lab for Yamato that you can easily tear off with your hands while you’re on the go. 

Apart from the shear variety of Japanese stationery on offer, from gel pens, ballpoint pens, highlighters, and brush pens to mechanical pencils, inks, pencil cases, and correction tape, there are more than a few products that demonstrate the innovative thinking that goes into creating these stationery items, as well as iconic designs that demonstrate Japan’s long-standing appreciation for writing.

One such example is the popular (and award-winning) Tombow 8900 pencil, which first launched in 1945, recognizable by its olive green color and vintage-look packaging. Another tried-and-tested product is Sakura’s Gelly Roll gel pen. Launched in the 1980s, it was the world’s first gel-based ink pen, and is now available in seven iterations and a variety of colors.

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If it’s a mechanical pencil you’re looking for, the Uni Kuru Toga is considered to be one of the best, with lead that rotates as you write, ensuring continuously crisp lines. Other Uni releases include the Jetstream Edge ballpoint pen, which comes in tip sizes ranging from 0.28 mm to 1 mm, and the Propus Window Q-Dry highlighter, which has a small window that lets you see what you are highlighting. 

The Harinacs Stapleless Stapler by Kokuyo binds paper together using a punch action instead of staples, while the Midori Eraser Dust Mini Cleaner II picks up unwanted eraser dust. Also by Kokuyo is Gloo, a glue stick that makes sure whatever you are sticking down stays wrinkle free, and the clever Kadokeshi 28-Corner Eraser. Zebra’s Mildliner Highlighters, which feature one chisel tip and one fine tip on either end, come in 25 colors, from smoke blue to mild vermillion. For artists, Pilot’s Shunpitsu Pocket Brush Pen dries in seconds. Need a spot to put everything? Both the Sun-Star Delde Slide Pen Pouch and the Lihit Lab Smart Fit Actact Stand Pen Case double as pen holders that can stand on your desk.

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When it comes to notebooks, there are numerous high-quality options worth checking out. One is the Midori MD Paper Notebook, which features bleed-resistant paper and a 180-degree binding, allowing you to write on a completely flat surface. 

Maruman, which has been creating paper products since 1920, also has a wide range of notebooks, including the Mnemosyne and Executive Hardcover, known for their bleed-resistant paper and durability. The TomoeRiver Notebook is ideal for those who love to write with fountain pens, and prides itself on being ‘The greatest paper for fountain pen’.

Clearly, Japan just understands us stationery nerds. Is there a certain pen or paper product you just can't live without?! Let us know in the comments below so we can geek out together!

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