Category Archives: Rollbahn

Japanese Stationery Magazines (and Giveaway!)

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I don’t remember how I first heard that there was such a thing as Japanese stationery magazines, and I’m not even sure if “magazine” is the right word for them. The first one I’d heard of was a series of numbered volumes called “Note and Diary Style Book.” I searched for them on Amazon Japan, and printed out the results. I brought it to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Manhattan, which has a huge selection of Japanese books and magazines. The first time I went, the sales clerk said “Wow, we don’t carry these, but we really should!” Given Kinokuniya’s large stationery department, I quite agreed.

When I went back and asked again recently, I had better luck. The clerk said they did not have the exact ones listed on Amazon, but she showed me a few similar items, and I bought these ones. One of them seems to be a compilation of the best notebook, pen and stationery products of the year. The other one seems more like a magazine with feature pages on different stationery stores and pen manufacturers. They are sort of like catalogs, or perhaps trade journals for the Japanese stationery and pen industry. There are pages in the one with no English title that list various stationery stores. The MonoMax one seems more catalog-like, so I wondered if MonoMax might be a store, but from a little googling, it seems like it’s a magazine that covers various products. From browsing at Kinokuniya, I’ve noticed that there seem to be a lot of Japanese magazines that focus on fashion and accessories, sometimes a single product like backpacks, with just tons and tons of photos of various backpacks that are trendy in Japan. I can’t really think of any American equivalent that so single-mindedly hones in on a single product. We have some magazines with pretty specific topics for niche audiences, especially in terms of trade journals, but I don’t think we have any consumer magazines that just showcase backpacks! As for notebooks and pens, there is a magazine called Pen World, and trade journals called “Stationery” (may be defunct now as last issue I could find is over a year old) and “Stationery Trends,” but “Stationery Magazine” is Japanese.

Anyway, here’s some of the eye-candy from within these two publications. If anyone can read Japanese and can add more explanation, please do so in the comments! I will also give these two magazines away if anyone wants them. I’ll select two random winners from any comments on this post that express interest in the giveaway. The deadline to comment and enter is Friday July 10, 2015 at 11:59 Eastern time.


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Notebook Addict of the Week: June

This week’s addict is one of the kind readers who loves notebooks so much, she even enjoys sharing her extras and once sent me a couple of notebooks to review. She probably didn’t miss them, as she has 267 other notebooks waiting to be used… or at least that was how many she had back in February 2013 when she wrote this article on Slate: The Paper Chase: Confessions of a Stationery Addict. I thought I’d already made her an addict of the week but realized it was quite overdue!

The slideshow with the Slate article isn’t working right now, but I have some exclusive photos of June’s collection that are even better!

This is a pretty serious addiction:

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June says:

“I keep my empty notebooks on these overcrowded shelves–most of them anyway–there are stacks all over the house, on other bookshelves, and in one of the Field Notes archival boxes that I felt like a sucker for buying but love anyway. I’ve had many of these books for years. They sit untouched and neglected, and then I suddenly feel compelled to use one. I love smooth Japanese and Korean paper, and while I’m unable to resist purchasing that kind of paper and attractive notebooks, the bulk of my writing is done in more commonplace composition books, cheap reporters notebooks, and of course pocket-sized books like Field Notes and Moleskine cahiers. I’ve made quite a few journals over the years (those are on still another shelf), but I can’t imagine ever using them.”

Thanks June, for sharing your addiction (and your notebooks)!

Questions from Readers

Once again, I’m rounding up some questions from various readers who are in search of their perfect notebook. Help them if you can by leaving a comment!
From Landon: I really like the filofax pocket cover you showed a couple of years ago. I have been looking for something exactly like that for a long time. Do you know anyone who makes them similar to the one you have pictured?

I think he means this one below (details in this post), and I wish I did know where you could buy one like it today! I haven’t seen anything even close in years. Filofax made an extra-slim notebook a few years ago, but the leather wasn’t as nice, and they no longer seem to produce it.

From Diana: Looking for an old steno notebook with Gregg shorthand symbols on it

Not sure about this, eBay might be the best source. None of the current steno notebooks I’ve seen seem to include a reference chart of symbols.

From Jane: I was wondering if you happen to know of a cheaper alternative to an Xtra Small Moleskine.
Grandluxe and Leuchtturm both make extra small notebooks. Leuchtturm’s seem to have the same $9.95 suggested retail price as Moleskine. The Grandluxe Monologue notebook prices vary on Amazon– sometimes more, sometimes slightly less. They are harder to find in stores in the US. Coincidentally, a reader named Todd recently wrote to me with some tips on finding smaller notebooks, recommending this EDC Forum thread, which led him to the Scully Planner. It’s not cheap, but it’s refillable.
From Sarah: I’m looking for an A5 notebook with blank or dotted pages that are numbered. I know the Leuchtturm pages are numbered, but I’m wondering if they work with Micron Pigma pens (my preferred pen). I’ve seen various reviews. I want a notebook I can use with the Micron pen and not worry about drying times or using both sides of the paper. Any idea if Leuchtturm would work? Or an alternative?
I haven’t tested a Leuchtturm recently, and when I reviewed one a few years ago, I only tested a Pigma brush pen. The notebook I reviewed had a lot of show-through, but I’d heard they upgraded the paper since then. Maybe other Leuchtturm  users can chime in here?
From Edward: A few years ago I bought a simple black notebook. I am about to fill mine up, and can’t recall where I purchased it. I have been searching the internet, which is how I found your site, and was hoping you might have an idea of where it is from.
Description: Hard Smooth Cover
Color: Black
Paper: Unruled, Very White, and the paper is high quality & thick
Cover Size: 8 1/2″ x5 5/8″
Page size: Roughly, 8 1/4″ x5″
 I think the most unique thing about this notebook is that it came with a single page of glossy, lined paper, which can be inserted behind a page in the notebook, as a guide for writing clean, straight lines.
The only notebook I can think of that comes with an extra sheet of paper like that is the Emilio Braga notebook I bought in Portugal, reviewed here. I feel like I’ve seen others that had it, but I can’t remember where!
From Drew: I was looking to get a recommendation for a notebook. I’m hoping for something with a significant number of pages, rather large, ruled or gridded, with either a spiral spine or a spine that allows the book to stay open on a given page. I was thinking about getting an XL Rollbahn notebook (10.25 x 8; 180 pages). Do you have any ideas?
This is another tricky one, as most of the notebooks I can think of are smaller and thicker, or larger but with fewer pages, or they are sketchbooks with unlined pages. Maybe some of Miquelrius’s notebooks would fit the bill, though? They have an academic notebook with 250 sheets, among other MR Evolution notebooks that all seem to have over 200 sheets. The Doane Paper Large Idea Journal is also worth checking out– it’s only got 100 sheets, but it feels very substantial and has a nice wire-o binding. I use one at the office and love it!
From Alex: I have a question about a seemingly hard to find sketchbook. As an architect and furniture designer, I am looking for a dot grid sketchbook with heavy weight paper that will prevent showthrough. I use the Leuchtturm large size (5.75” x 8.25”; 80 gsm) but my ink drawings show through so I have to skip every other page for the drawings to be legible. It’s also too small for large drawings. I am considering the Leuchtturm master size which has a dot grid and 100 gsm paper. I am not sure if that is heavy enough. Do you know of a large format (bigger is better) sketchbook with dot grid paper in the 125-150 gsm range?
The only thing I can think of to recommend are Rhodia pads and webnotebooks, as they have dot grid options and the paper is usually good for showthrough. You can’t always judge by gsm alone, as other factors about the paper can affect showthrough and bleedthrough.
Thanks for all your emails and sorry I can’t always answer them. Let’s hope our readers can help!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Acacia

This week’s addict was another submission by email. She writes:


My name is Acacia and I am a notebook addict! I buy them at every opportunity and covet them unabashedly. I write in them as journals, books of stories, collections of poems and quotes I like, but I am a faithless lover. The lure of a new notebook means that I rarely complete a notebook before starting another.

Another colorful collection with a lot of variety! (Cool old typewriter, too…) I thought the orange one to the left might be a Rhodia at first, but looking closer I suspect it may be a Rollbahn. The orange one in the middle might be Rhodia, though. Other than that, I think I spot a few Moleskines, and the distinctive orange bookmark of a HandBook Journal, but I don’t recognize the other brands.

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Acacia!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Herman

This week’s addict emailed me a couple of months ago with this lovely photo:

He says:

I’ve been collecting notebooks forever and every time I take a trip somewhere it seems I come back with a few more. All that is fine, but since new year is around the corner and it’s time for some resolutions, an effort to downsize and eliminate unnecessary clutter is high on my to-do list. One thing I have realized in doing some cleaning up is that I have a lot of notebooks that I haven’t even opened the original packaging, let alone used. In the picture, I think the only notebook I have actually used is the moleskine. That is not an endorsement of moleskines by any means. I guess it’s the only one that I’m certain I can replace, whereas the other ones may be harder to find again. In any case, I doubt in my cleaning up, I will get rid of any. We are entitled to a few guilty pleasures, right? I supposed that is why we are addicts.

I spy Miquelrius, Rollbahn and Muji, I think… and lots of other intriguing items!

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Herman!

Gifts From a Reader: Rollbahn and Field Notes

I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers… well, maybe not really, but I do love it when exciting notebooks show up in my mailbox from people I’ve never met!

A reader named June sent me two lovely items– first, a special edition Field Notes:

This was the perfect gift, because as I’ve written here before, I kind of have some issues with Field Notes and all the verbiage they put on their notebooks. I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy any of their notebooks to test. But here’s one that not only came to me for free, but it’s in Russian [Oops, I stand corrected by a reader– it’s Mongolian]! I love the look of the text, and since I don’t speak the language, it saves me having to deal with the twee-ness of it in English.

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The Field Notes is like the Mead Journal I reviewed recently in that it has brown lines instead of grey. The notebook overall is quite thin, with lightweight paper that is somewhat brighter white than Moleskine.

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I was disappointed that it had so much showthrough with pens. Also, I found that my fountain pen feathered out more than on other papers– I was surprised, as from what I’ve read on other blogs, fountain pen afficionados seem to like this brand, so I guess I had high expectations for the paper. I did think it worked well with my light blue Pilot Precise V5, which sometimes looks too watery on smoother papers. The Field Notes paper is confirmed to be acid free by my trusty pH pen.

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Then there’s this:

The Rollbahn notebook was also a perfect gift, because I’d been hearing about them for a while but they’re not easy (though not impossible) to find in stores, at least in NYC. I first read about Rollbahn here. I was intrigued enough to do some more online research, enough to discover that it seems to be a Japanese brand with quite a cult following.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well it is a rather unique notebook. First of all, it’s an adorable small size, very pocketable. (Other sizes are available.) I don’t love the cover overhang, but it’s made of a pretty sturdy cardboard, and hopefully wouldn’t get too bent up with use. The words on cover seem like Japanese-German nonsense, as you often see with English phrases on Japanese products.

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All the pages are perforated, and at the end, there are yellow divider cards separating the pages from a very cool feature: clear plastic pockets! I immediately thought the pockets might be the perfect size for credit cards, and that the wire-o binding might leave enough room for the notebook to be used as a mini-wallet. Not quite, though– the plastic is a bit slippery and I’d be worried cards would fly out. It’s also not an ideal way to store money. The elastic band keeps everything together, but it looks a bit squeezed.

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The paper feels great to write on, but again, showthrough performance wasn’t the best. The tone of the paper is rather creamy, more yellowy than Moleskine, shown at left for comparison. Again, it’s acid free.

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This notebook cost 263 Yen, which is about $3.18 in dollars– not bad at all for a cute little notebook with some nice extra features.

A big thank you to June for sending me these great notebooks! (I’m hoping she’ll also someday send me a photo of her own collection– I’ll bet it’s a good one!)