Posts filed under Mai-Bun

Tokyo Stationery Breakfast Club: People getting together on Saturday mornings to talk stationery

(Original Mai-bun article posted here. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

“Bunbougu Choushoku Kai” is a group of stationery nuts in Tokyo who get together to talk about their love for stationery on Saturday mornings.

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The club logo is above. The image comes from the fact that the abbreviation of the club name, “Buncho”, is the same word as that of a sparrow.

The club has been meeting once a month ever since they started in 2008, so they have been around now for 10 years. I started attending a few years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed the time I get to spend with like-minded people to talk about stationery.

* * *

The club meets all around Tokyo. Today we met at a rental office space in Shinjuku that is decorated like a school classroom.

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Despite an early 9:30 am start on a Saturday, everybody who pre-registered on the club’s Facebook page arrived on time. There is an unofficial club rule that the door gets locked once the clock hits 9:30, so people are good about arriving on time. First, the club-leader Hara-san welcomes the guests.

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We then go around the room introducing ourselves. Since today’s room was decorated like a classroom, each person came up to the podium to give their introductions.

  Miura-san, one of the founding members, reads out the highlights of past meetings.

Miura-san, one of the founding members, reads out the highlights of past meetings.

After the introductions, we split up into groups of 5-6 people.

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The basic rule is that everybody brings one item of stationery they want to talk about - something they like, something new they just bought, something that didn’t quite live up to their expectations - anything is fine. We take turns talking about what we brought.

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The show-and-tell is merely an ice-breaker for meandering conversations about all things stationery, whether about the specific product we brought or our experience with similar products. Each table has a facilitator, so there is nothing to be scared of even if you are a first-timer.

The following are some of the products people brought for today’s meeting:

  Markers with Mickey ears

Markers with Mickey ears

  A card stand made out of compressed spring

A card stand made out of compressed spring

  The “challenge” planner

The “challenge” planner

  A medical staple remover

A medical staple remover

Each product shown is recorded in the official club minutes listing the product name, where it was purchased, and the approximate cost. A snapshot of the page is posted on Facebook after every meeting.

* * *

Sometimes we even get representatives from stationery companies come to present their new products. Today we welcomed a PR person from ZEBRA to tell us about the newly published ZEBRA Complete Guide Book, covering the 120-year history of the company along with an in-depth review of their entire productline.

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By now some of you may have noticed from the pictures, but we actually hardly ever have time to eat breakfast! Although the meeting is called the breakfast club (choushoku kai), we are usually too caught up in talking about our stationery that we don’t have time to eat. The only exception is when we meet in a coffee shop or restaurant that lets us use their space on the condition of ordering food. That is the one time we make sure we take a break from our talking to actually enjoy breakfast.

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Today we collected 800 yen (approx. $8) from each participant for the meeting room rental fee before we went home to spend the rest of the weekend with our loved ones. A nice thing about meeting early on a Saturday is that the whole weekend is still ahead of us even after we go home.

This time we each got a special gift from ZEBRA on our way out!

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What do you think?

The club always welcomes new members, so if you are visiting Tokyo and want a chance to talk to fellow stationery lovers, come check us out! Event information is shared on our [Facebook page][0], so make sure you follow us. Due to space limitations, pre-registration is required and attendance will be cut off as soon as the limit is reached.

(Note from Bruce the translator: For those living near San Francisco, I am working on organizing a similar Stationery Breakfast Club in collaboration with Mai Do, the stationery store in SF Japan Town. If you are interested in such an event, please shoot me a note at

Recommended for:

  • People who like stationery
  • People who want to get the most out of a Saturday morning
  • People who want to share the unique ways they use their stationery
  • People who want to learn about stationery

Information: Bunbougu Breakfast Club

Posted on September 24, 2018 and filed under Mai-Bun.

Kokuyo Sokuryo-Yacho: The original Japanese field notebook

(Original article. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

Did you know Japan has its very own field notebook? As its name implies, Sokuryo (survey) Yacho (field notebook), was originally designed for civil engineers to record measurements in the field.

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Originally released by Kokuyo in 1959, it is a long-seller that is about to celebrate its 60th birthday. While it has been a long-time stalwart at construction sites, it is steadily gaining popularity with the general public for its handy size and sturdy build-quality. Its die-hard fans have even come up with a term for themselves - “Yacho-lers.”

What I want to highlight here is how this is an excellent notebook even for an office environment. I have a job at a large corporation (known in Japan as a “salary-man”), as far as can be from a construction site, but I still find it to be an excellent carry-everywhere notebook for my work. Let’s start by taking a look at the specs of the Sokuryo-Yacho.

This is a slim size that fits nicely in a jacket pocket. Its dimensions are 165mm (6.6”) x 95mm (3.8”) x 6mm (0.24”), which is roughly the width of American Field Notes, but about an inch taller.

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It fits easily in a suit pocket, and won’t add any bulk when carried with your planner or other notebooks. I particularly like how thin it is.

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The cover is thick cardboard imprinted with a cloth-like texture. It has a sturdy no-frills aesthetic.

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The hard cover is sturdy enough to give you plenty of stability to write while standing.

The paper is high quality fine paper that handles fountain pens with ease. The paper is easy to turn and has a nice smooth surface. I feel 40 sheets (80 pages) is just the right amount, neither too thick nor too thin.

Three different layouts are provided for three different surveying use cases: Level, Transit, and Sketch Book.

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The most popular layout for the general public seems to be the “SKETCH BOOK”, which offers a 3mm grid. The simplicity of the design offers great freedom and versatility. Let me show some of the ways I like to use them.

Since this easily fits in my jacket pocket and is thin enough to be carried with other notebooks, it is great as a dedicated To-do list notebook that can be carried everywhere.

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It can even be used as a highly portable bullet journal.

I also like to carry one around as a notebook to collect ideas I have when I’m out and about. Such moments of brilliance can easily get lost if buried in my regular notebooks, so I like having a dedicated notebook for this.

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You can even slip it into the cover of your planner.

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Given its size and versatility on the go, this is a great notebook to capture small snippets of information and even advice you get from your boss and colleagues. As you burn through them with nuggets of wisdom, I recommend you number them sequentially before your archive them. Looking back, they will serve as a visual reminder of how much experience you have gained over the years, boosting your confidence at work.

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This is a simple, yet versatile, all-around notebook. I can guarantee that it will come in handy at the workplace.

Recommended for:

  • People who need to take a lot of notes at work.
  • People who tend to lose their T0-do lists.
  • People who need to better organize their random ideas scattered in several notebooks.
  • Young people who have a lot they need to learn at their new jobs.

Information: Sokuryo-Yacho, Kokuyo

(This article was originally written for and modified for republishing.)

Posted on May 21, 2018 and filed under Kokuyo, Notebook Reviews, Mai-Bun.

Five Stationery Stores Not to Be Missed in Taipei, Taiwan

(Original article posted 11/29/2017. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

The people of Taiwan are just as passionate about their stationery as the people of Japan. Similar to Japan, there are strong communities of people who love their stationery and planners, and you will readily find bookstores and gift shops that carry a wide variety of such products. Last November I had the opportunity to visit Taipei with my close stationery friends, and here are the ones I was most impressed by.

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Everything trendy in Taiwan under one roof: eslite Xinyi Store (誠品書店 信義旗艦店)

The eslite bookstore is one of the most prominent bookstores in Taiwan that also carries a wide variety of stationery and lifestyle products. It is known amongst local people as the place where you can find “all of the trends in Taiwan under one roof.”

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On this trip I had the opportunity to visit eslite Xinyi (誠品書店 信義旗艦店), their flagship store. Not only do they tout to be one of the largest bookstores in Asia, but the building also houses approximately 150 stores from Taiwan and around the world.

The stationery departments are on the 2nd and 4th floors. The 2nd floor has an area for high-end writing instruments, with an impressive selection of fountain pens from around the world. [Image 2 eslite inside.jpg] When I visited in November, there was a special display of 2018 planners by the registers - just like you would see in Japan!

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Here you can also find local Taiwanese products as well as eslite’s private brand products.

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On the 4th floor you will find more casual products for daily use.

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I was especially impressed by their display of colored pencils!

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Their product displays were quite different from what I am used to seeing in Japan - everything was so accessible that I couldn’t keep myself from reaching out and trying things. Their wrapping paper and ribbon section was also quite impressive.

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As a trend-setter of Taiwanese culture, you will find eslite bookstores in many neighborhoods, with each store having its own unique theme/character. It is a store you surely will not want to miss when you visit Taiwan.

A place to enjoy functional stationery, coffee, and craft beer: Plain Stationery Homeware & Cafe(直物文具Café)

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This is a store run by one of my stationery friends, Mr. Tiger Shen.

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You will find a range of functional stationery curated by Mr. Shen as well as tasteful houseware.

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He also has a line of his own products, with the latest addition being rubber stamps.

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These are cute stamps that are perfect for decorating your planner.

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According to Mr. Shen, these fountain pen ink cataloging stamps were quite popular when he took them to Japan. There is also a space to play with calligraphy pens, which is quite the “thing” in Taiwan now.

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In the back of the store there is a space you can enjoy local tea, coffee, and even craft beers.

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It is a charming store where you can enjoy good stationery and good drinks. What more could one ask? I love this place.

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Mr. Shen speaks good Japanese, so don’t be scared to ask him questions.

Where you can find charming stationery & houseware: VVG Thinking

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The Huashan 1914 Creative Park houses many fashionable gift shops and boutiques. This is a commercial zone that was built back in 1914 on the site of an old sake (rice wine) distillery. VVG Thinking (好様思維) is a store in this complex that carries antique books, select housewares, and stationery.

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You will also find a wide variety of gifts and stationery products made in Taiwan.

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It is walking distance from Plain Stationery Homeware & cafe(直物文具Café), so I highly encourage you to check out both.

A sanctuary for Taiwanese stationery lovers: TOOLS to LIVEBY(禮拜文房具)

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TOOLS to LIVEBY(禮拜文房具)is a place that many Taiwanese stationery lovers refer to as their ultimate stationery sanctuary. Inside the store that looks like a renovated garage, you will find, fashionable stationery from all around the world, with no room to spare. The display is tasteful and well thought out.

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They also sell original products and bags. It is a perfect place to stock up on gifts.

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This is a magical space where a whole day will pass without noticing if you are not careful.

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A store with a great selection of Japanese stationery: Vision Stationery (明進文房具)

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A short walking distance from TOOLS to LIVEBY(禮拜文房具)is Vision Stationery (明進文房具). This is a stationery store with a great selection of Japanese products. Here you will get a feel for which Japanese products are popular in Taiwan. There are not many local products, but I found some interesting washi masking tapes.

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They also carry store-branded Kokuyo Field Notes as well as a original rubber stamps.

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Taipei is merely a 4 hour flight from Tokyo, and even closer from Osaka. With many low-cost carrier competing for your business, it has become very easy for Japanese people to visit Taiwan. If you like stationery, I urge you to treat yourself to a stationery tour of Taipei, Taiwan!

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eslite Xinyi Store (誠品書店 信義旗艦店) (Map)

Plain Stationery Homeware & cafe(直物文具Café)(Map)

VVG Thinking (好様思維) (Map)

TOOLS to LIVEBY(禮拜文房具) (Map)

Vision Stationery (明進文房具) (Map)

Posted on March 2, 2018 and filed under Mai-Bun, Travel.