Posts filed under Mai-Bun

Tokyo Paper Fair: An event where paper lovers can go crazy

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

Kamihaku (“Paper Fair”) is an event that gathers makers of paper products from all around Japan, and even some from outside of Japan. Its inaugural event took place in Tokyo last year (2017). It was such a success that not only did it spread to other cities in Japan, but it also became a regular annual event in Tokyo.

Here is my report from attending the second annual event, as organized around the three aspects of the show that really made it special. While I cannot begin to tell you about every single booth, I will show you some of the notable booths that caught my attention.

You got to love the ticket that was made to look like a train ticket

You got to love the ticket that was made to look like a train ticket

What makes it special #1: You get to purchase show-exclusive and pre-release products!

One of the attractions of the Paper Fair is that you get to purchase show-exclusive and pre-release products.

For instance, at the booth of Yamamoto Paper, a paper distributor from Osaka, they were holding a show-exclusive “paper picking” (think apple-picking) event.

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From a table stacked high with “Memo Towers” of various colors, customers were allowed to tear away as much paper as they like and pay by the height of their stack.

The freshly picked paper is wrapped in original wrapping paper and given a “date picked” sticker. How playful!

Another popular item at the booth was a hand-made mini-pallet to give your wrapped paper that factory warehouse look.

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While the line was too long to partake in the paper picking, I was able to buy a pre-wrapped memo-and-pallet set.

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They even sold a paper sample booklet made of all kinds of discontinued paper. This too was a show exclusive.

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Each page includes descriptions and background stories about each of the kinds of paper.

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At the HI MOJIMOJI booth, they were pre-releasing the miniature version of their wildly popular organization tool “WORKERS’ BOX”.

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Not only is it small and cute, but it is also just the right size for organizing your cards and small items around the desk.

At the KING JIM booth, they were handing out free illustration pins for anybody who followed their Instagram account. That was a no-brainer.

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What makes it special #2: You get to buy products from stores that are too far to visit in-person

The second attraction is that you get to see products from stores that are too far to visit or brands that are only sold in local boutique shops.

For instance, the popular stationery store from Taiwan, Plain Stationery (直物生活文具) had a booth at the show. Along with their original products, they were displaying carefully curated products from around the world.

I purchased two of their original products. The first was their “RESEARCH NOTES”, a pocket notebook that uses fountain pen friendly paper.

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The second was their playful rubber stamp “Handy Stamp” that is meant to be paired with your own hand-drawings to complete the picture.

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Next, I went to the Paper Goods Emoji booth, a boutique shop in Osaka. Here I bought their original letterpress cards. I’ve been wanting to visit their store, but hadn’t had the chance to get out to Osaka in a long time. I was happy that I got to see their products here.

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What makes it special #3: You get to meet the owners and designers behind the brands

The third attraction is that you actually get to meet the people behind the products.

At many of the booths, the designers and staff members, i.e. the people “inside”, were standing at their booths.

The couple behind HI MOJIMOJI

The couple behind HI MOJIMOJI

In some cases, even the owners of the businesses were standing and explaining their products to the visitors.

The president of Yamamoto Paper

The president of Yamamoto Paper

I cherished the opportunity to get to hear back stories about products from the people who were directly involved in making them. It was a fun shopping experience, and I can guarantee that you will blow past any budget you set for yourself on your way in.

★ ★ ★

The event in Tokyo this June was followed by one in Kyoto in July, and another one in Fukuoka in December.

This is a must-go event for anybody who likes paper products. If it happens to come to a town near you, I highly encourage you to check it out.

How good was it? My co-editor tells me her spending reached three digits (loot pictured below).

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I didn’t spend quite as much, but…ok fine, I bought quite a bit (my loot pictured below).

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Recommended for:

  • People who like paper and paper goods.
  • People who love stationery of all kinds

Information: Kamihaku 2018

Posted on December 24, 2018 and 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.