While everybody is busy going digital, journaling and planning are still very much in vogue in Japan, with several big-name brands devoting themselves to pens and various types of notebooks. For hardcore fans, there’s a 7-story Ito-ya in Ginza with a 3-story sister store entirely dedicated to everything that writes. It can be challenging to navigate and avoid shoving everything in your shopping basket, so here are some ideas of what to pick up at your next shopping spree.
1. Kuru Toga series by Uni
The Uni Kuru Toga series has been a long-time favorite among students stationery fans. This unique mechanical pencil has a built-in roulette system that allows for even writing from when your first to your last sentence. You can find the most affordable models at your local convenience store, but we recommend investing in their metal selection. Their weight feels great in the hand and always sleep in the pencil case. Browse the Kuru Toga series here.
2. Mount Fuji Eraser by Plus
While it’s not everybody that wants to fill their pencil cases with novelty stationery, with the virtually infinite range available in Japan, it’s only natural that one (or two) does make the cut. In this case, it’s this adorable Mount Fuji eraser. As you use it, the apex of Japan’s symbolic volcano will reveal itself. This quirky pick is part of Plus’ Air-in eraser range with promises a clean erasing experience, from when you first use your eraser to when it’s on its last legs. Get this adorable Mount Fuji eraser here.
3. Sarasa and Blen series by Zebra
Zebra is a major manufacturer of pens and offers a few good series with models coming in a wide range of sizes and colors. Their Sarasa series has been a popular favorite for a long time and continue to add to their rainbow of available colors. (A personal favorite is their ‘Study’ series, which has marks on the barrel that indicate how much ink you’ve gone through.) They do, however, have a design reminiscent of high school and university.
The brand recently introduced Blen, a much sleeker model that combines a modern look with the same smoothness of Sarasa pens that you are used to. Browse Zerba pens here.
4. Emott Ever Fine by Uni
As we all know, Japan offers a plethora of pens for a large variety of users. But even some colorful pens don’t quite have the color or opacity payoff we’re looking for. Uni released the Emott Ever Fine series as a solution to just that. These 4mm sign pens come in 40 vibrant colors at ¥200 a pop or in various sets. Emott Ever Fine pens are also waterproof, which makes them ideal for those looking for archival writing tools that will stand the test of time. Browse all the colors of the Emott Ever Fine here.
5. Mildliners by Zebra
Do Mildliners even need an introduction? These pastel double-sided highlighters have taken the world by storm with the rise of bullet journalling back in 2015. They are widely available anywhere in the world, but in Japan, you can find them sold individually and, of course, in the latest colors. The most attractive aspect of these highlighters is their unique range of colors and soft finish on the paper, which takes away from the abrasive neon yellow from your elementary school days. Browse Zebra highlighters here.
Notebooks and Planners
6. Campus Series by Kokuyo
There are hundreds of great notebook options at stationery stores, but often, the simpler, the better. Campus notebooks come in all the sizes you might need. You can find them anywhere, and their light, slim design are compact and easy to carry. For parents with kids, you can’t go wrong with these. Browse Campus notebooks here.
7. Planner by Midori
Planners, agendas, however you like to call them, are very much in use in Japan. You’ll find just about any layout in stores, from monthly views to weekly and daily ones. With the Google Calendars of the world, it’s hard for some to justify purchasing a physical planner at all. But what if you want to plan a side project and need the note-taking space? The Midori planners are great for that because they are simple and offer all the white space you might need for doodling and sketching. Daily entries are also dateless so that you can use them only for when you are working on your project. No wasted paper! Browse Midori planners here.
Alternative: Planner by Hobonichi Techo
Hobonichi Techo is a very well known and respected stationery brand with a focus on creating beautiful and practical planners. Each comes with a wide variety of views and pages to allow easy bookkeeping of anniversaries and contacts. Though ranging more on the pricy side, you can’t beat the quality of a Hobonichi Techo planner.
8. &Note Light by Kanmido
We have a few notebook recommendations up our sleeve, but if you already have a couple on the go and are looking to upgrade your notebook game, take a look at the &Note Light. When thinking of Japanese stationery, it’s these kinds of unique solutions that come to mind, and while they might seem a little confusing at first, once you get the hang of it, the &Note Light might just change your mind on how to use notebooks in the future.
Browse all the &Note series here.
Other Fun Tidbits
9. Index Clips by Midori
It’s easy to lose track of what we write down in our notebooks. And while sticky bookmarks might do the trick, they can’t be used over and over again, making you reach for yet another one when changing projects. Instead, consider getting your hands on a small box of index clips. Midori offers quite the variety, with both metal and paper series. If you want something sleek and professional, opt for their minimalist metal clips. If, on the contrary, you want these clips to bring some life to your desk, their paper series comes in a variety of cute animal shapes. Don’t be fooled by their material, though made of pressed paper, they are sturdy! Buy Midori’s metal index clips here.
10. Cocofusen series by Kanmido
These little index strips are perfect for the reader on the go. They come in packets of four colors, each with their own little pocket to stick on the book, textbook or notebook of your choice. Especially if you fall into the group of those who like to maximize their commute time and study on the train, these take away the stress of scrambling through your bag for your stack of post-its. Browse all things Cocofusen here.
Got a favorite Japanese stationery item? Let us know in the comments!