The Worldwide Craze on Japanese Stationery

Pen and paper are among the most common tools known to man. These tools are used primarily for writing letters, words, or figures. While these common tools may seem mundane and ordinary to some, people who love writing would find quality of pen and paper. One of the most common things that are used in writing is stationery. This can be found in almost all parts of the world as a huge percentage of the world population write. However, probably one of the places to find great quality stationery would be none other than Japan.

What’s So Special About Japanese Stationery?

By Dick Thomas Johnson (Seven-Eleven) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese stationery is touted as one of the best in the world. For one thing, quality is the most important to the Japanese people. They follow standards to the T. Hence, one can guarantee that products, especially stationery, in Japan would be made of the best raw materials that the country has or produces. On the other hand, one may wonder what actually sets Japanese stationery apart from the stationeries produced in other parts of the world.

Japanese stationery basically focuses on three main factors, namely, quality, design, and innovation. Due to the fact that Japanese customers have high expectations of their stationeries, manufacturers of Japanese stationery would have to meet the expectation and demand of their products. Thoughtful designs and excellent quality can be expected from most stationeries all over Japan. There are actually teams of designers and engineers that are dedicated to focusing on even the smallest details of Japanese stationery.

The goal of these teams is to produce products that are not only practical but also attractive to consumers and reliable in terms of quality. This does not necessarily mean that these products would have to be expensive. In Japan, even inexpensive stationery would still have excellent quality. The Japanese stationery industry is a highly competitive one so manufacturers always have to innovate continuously in the means of improving their product lines as well as inventing new lines.

Probably one of the many reasons why the Japanese people have such high expectations in terms of their stationery among other things is due to its rich history. There is a strong tradition of calligraphy in Japan as they used brushes and calligraphy to write letters back in the day. Hence, beautiful penmanship in the country is seen as a form of art. Up to this day, Japanese children continue to learn about the art of calligraphy, also known as shodo, in school.

To maintain a beautiful art form that is calligraphy, excellent writing materials are required. These materials help in making subtle stroke endings known as tome or full stops, hane or small hooks, and harai or sweeping strokes. Learning all of these things at such a young age teaches Japanese children to learn how to appreciate fine writing materials. Hence, it is no wonder that the Japanese people have such high expectations in their stationeries.

Japanese Pens and Paper and Their Specialties

By Tatsuo Yamashita (Flickr: 100円ショップにマッキー) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese stationery is not only used to cater calligraphy. Japanese pens that are designed with tiny tips are also used to cater to the ordinary Japanese writing. There are certain characteristics in the Japanese writing language that are very detailed. Just a minor discrepancy in the writing of these characters may also give a whole different meaning to the word. Hence, pens with tiny tips, ones that are so much smaller than those manufactured by the West, ensure that Japanese words would remain clean and distinct even when written at a small size.

While there are also large-tip sizes in Japanese pens, the more popular option would be fine-tip Japanese pens. With the help of these tiny tips, people from all parts of the world are able to write even in small spaces. Finer pen tips are typically scratchier in comparison to other types of pen but Japanese manufacturers have innovated their pens and even inks so as to provide a smoother writing experience. This can also be seen in Japanese fountain pens, which consists of finer nibs in comparison to those manufactured in the West.

Gel pens are also quite popular in Japan. Almost all stationery stores across the country sell Japanese gel pens. This is because this type of pen provides a smooth writing experience as well as intensely pigmented ink in comparison to ballpoint and rollerball pens. In fact, one of the most well-known pens sold and used in the United States is the Pilot G2. This pen model is a Japanese gel pen. Other models include the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Uni-ball Signo. Gel pens are now very common but they were actually invested just recently by Sakura, which is a Japanese manufacturer.

Another type of pen is a brush pen. This type of pen is best used for lettering or calligraphy. It provides line variation as well as expressiveness. The tips of brush pens are made of different types of materials including felt and synthetic hair. There are even some brush pens that consist of real hair tips. Every type of material provides a distinct characteristic to the writing of the words and characters.

What is a pen without a paper? Aside from producing some of the best pens in the world, the quality of paper in Japan is also excellent. Paper that either bleeds or feathers is frowned upon in Japan. Hence, even paper products that are used just for everyday use or for school purposes are made from high-quality raw materials. Notebooks are constantly being improved by Japanese manufacturers. This is done by the development of new bindings as well as page styles.

Various Japanese Stationery Brands and Items

By Donmike10 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

With so many brands in Japan that compete for the best stationery in the country, the only way to become popular is to provide a high-quality product that would remain useful for almost all types of individuals. For those who love writing with pencils, the most famous pencil in all of Japan is Tombow’s 8900. First released in the year 1945, this pencil represents all Japanese pencils. With its density ranging from 2H to 2B, this pencil provides a smooth writing and drawing experience. It is sold by the dozen at 520 yen.

For a multicolored pen, one may opt to get uni Mitsubishi Pencil’s Style-Fit. For one thing, it is customizable. The bodies and the refills of the pen are bought separately. Some of these bodies are adorned with cute designs, which entice female shoppers. They have a wide range of colors that consumers can choose from. The body is sold at 250 yen per piece while the refile is sold at 70 yen per piece.

Another great item from uni Mitsubishi Pencil is Kuru Toga. It is a mechanical pencil that is unlike any other. Each time that the pencil is pushed onto the paper, the lead is rotated by the pencil to maintain the sharpness of the lead. It is truly a mechanical invention. This is especially useful for people who are bothered when the lead becomes blunt from using only one side of the pencil for too long. The pencil is priced at 430 yen per piece.

As for those who read a lot of books and articles and need to highlight certain pages or sentences, try the Beetle Tip dial color by Kokuyo. As the name suggests, this highlighter is quite unique in comparison to all other highlighters due to its pen point, which has a shape of a beetle’s horn. Each side of this highlighter produces a different hue. Turning the highlighter would change the color of the tip. It is only 150 yen per piece.

A problem with pens, in general, is that it cannot be erased. However, thanks to Frixion light by Pilot, the pen game has changed. What makes this pen so special is its ability to be erased by heat at a certain temperature. The tail end of the pen contains a rubber that one can use to “erase” the lines that were drawn simply by applying friction, which in turn generates heat. Though the ink may seem to have been erased, the color can be recovered by cooling. It is only 100 yen per piece.

Aside from the writing items, great notebooks can also be found in Japan. Probably the most famous notebook in the country is Kokuyo’s Campus. It is considered as a standard notebook in Japan. This series has a wide range of options in terms of lines and designs. One of its variation is a Campus notebook that contains dots on each rule line, which lets the customer have an easier time to draw tables or figures. The notebook costs about 200 yen per piece.

Another great option for a notebook is the Premium C.D. Notebook by Apica. What makes this notebook special is its paper. Many say that the paper in this notebook is similar to the texture of silk. That is just how smooth the paper is, which shows its high quality. Many dub this notebook as the “gentleman’s notebook” for good reasons. Consumers would definitely have a comfortable time writing in this notebook. A piece costs 1,200 yen, which is very expensive for a notebook, but many say that it is worth the price.

Best Japanese Stationery Stores Specifically in Ginza, Tokyo

Should one find him or herself in Ginza, Tokyo, there are several Japanese stationery stores that one can visit. Probably the best one would be Itoya. Located at 2-7-15, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, it offers a wide range of products that writers and artists would go crazy for. Founded in the year 1904, it has established itself as one of the best places to visit for people looking for stationery made from high-quality raw materials. Every floor of this store constitutes a specific theme. Aside from the usual pen and paper, it also offers envelopes and postcards among others.

A special feature of this store is that one can write on the paper that one just purchased and have it stamped and mailed immediately. As a specialty shop for Japanese stationery, Itoya has also developed its own original merchandise. This includes writing utensils, small leather products, writing paper, and diaries. One of their well-known products among business people is their ROMEO fountain pen. The nearest station to this store is Ginza Station.

Another great find in the area of Ginza would be Kyukyodo. Founded as an apothecary shop in the year 1663 in the area of Kyoto, Kyukyodo realized that the raw material utilized for medicine may also be utilized in making incense. Hence, in the 1700s, Kyukyodo shifted their focus on incense production. Through the years, their offerings grew and now, they also sell calligraphic works and paintings as well as Japanese paper items and stationery.

One of the original products of Kyukyodo is its original slim notebook known as the Marukyu Notebook. Made with Yuzen paper sourced from Kyoto, the notebook is small in size, which makes it convenient for people to carry around. The quality of the notebooks is also excellent. Located at 5-7-4, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, the nearest station to this place is Ginza Station.

For painters, the place that is a must-visit when in Ginza is Gekkoso. Located at 8−7−2 Chuo, Ginza, Tokyo, 104-0061, this store offers painting supplies like brushes, even those made from horsehair. At the basement of the shop lies a small cafe that customers may chill in. Opened in the year 1917, the store sells its own original merchandise that is highly sought by artists. Also lies in their basement is a gallery space where local artists showcase their work to the public.

Well-known not just locally, several tourists visit this place to find great stationery items that are of high quality. Notes and artworks can be posted on the walls of the gallery for others to see. The store is open from 11 in the morning until 7 in the evening from Thursday to Tuesday. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Other stores also offer various items such as decorated boxes, kawaii cards,  and several accessories that can be used for home decoration or as gifts to other persons at an affordable price of only a few USD. Some stores can be contacted via their phone numbers and even offer free shipping when one purchases their prime products. Going to the store via car would have to find a good parking spot as one may stay in the store for a while.