Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
I’m a huge stationery dork
I think it started at the Sanrio stores that became popular around the same time I was born. I was sort of obsessed with cute Hello Kitty stuff as a kid, and this is not at all unusual for girls around my age.
Combine this with a pen palling hobby and an art degree, and look out, I’m just lucky I’m a minimalist so I don’t hoard the stuff. I have a shoebox back home full of pens and pencils, mostly from Japan. I didn’t think I should bring any of those with me when I moved back to Japan because I knew I’d accumulate some more over time. I’m not one of those digital to do list people. I’m a handwritten note and lister type and I use a day planner, not a smartphone for my appointments.
There is a lot to like about stationery in Japan.
It’s so cute. It’s high quality. It’s affordable.
It’s just so much better than what I can usually find in the US. (Although I have been known to buy boxes of thin point Sharpies there too…)
We have erasable pens here, which are sort of magic. I hear FriXion brand are sold in the US now. Mono are the best erasers, and everything a student could possibly want for effective studying is readily available. I won’t even get into the notebooks, letter sets, cute sticky notes, stickers, pencil cases, etc. What about One pen which has black, blue, red, and green ink, plus a mechanical pencil and eraser? For most people, that’s more than enough.
In the last month, I started watching some videos by an illustrator who talks about markers she uses. Then I started to talk with two of my friends who work in art stores. Then I started to obsessively check the pen and marker sections of every store I went into without a time limit. I am mostly checking out what’s available that I don’t already have or know about, checking prices, looking at limited edition products and colors, etc. It’s become the way I reward myself. I went to the dentist. I get to buy a couple pens.
There is one recycle shop near my house that has a small stationery section with new products. They are sold at around half off list price, so I always check there first when there’s something I want. There are a couple art stores in town, both very tiny and limited to mostly dusty frames. I generally find better materials in the bookstores that stock plenty of study materials. When I get into a bigger city, stores like Loft and Tokyu Hands are hard to avoid. I can get very distracted there looking at all the things I want and don’t need. They both have huge sections or entire floors dedicated to stationery. Drool.
Mujirushi has some great stationery products, but their notebooks are a bit too brown / neutral for me sometimes. I use one of their A6 day planners with blank spaces for dates so they can be used starting any time of year and you can skip a week if you want to.
100 yen shops always have lots of pens and markers, with a variety of quality. I recently bought a Sarasa clip pen at one because I thought it was a unique color, then saw that it’s available in some bookstores at the same price. I have done okay with cheap packs of pens or highlighters, but they sometimes take longer to dry or have other lower quality issues. Some well known brands are sold in 100 yen stores, so those are of the same quality you get (although the prices can be lower) elsewhere.
Right now, my favorites, with retail list prices are:
For general writing and drawing: Zebra Sarasa color pens, various widths; 100 yen each
For filling in: Uni Posca thin, around 1.0, Do! marker in pastel yellow and sparkly gold (for an acrylic paint look); 200 yen each
Writing, sketching, and scheduling: Mitsubishi 2B and 4B (super cute) Rilakuma pencils, Tombow “Hello Nature” 2B pencils; Price varies depending on quantity, but usually in packs of 3 for about 150 yen
Also Windsor Newton and Sakura watercolor paints; Price depends on color, around 100 yen for small Sakura tubes
In the past I have bought a ton of Muji’s color pens, which used to be refillable. I’m sad they aren’t anymore, but still really like them as a thin outlining or writing pen; 80 yen each
I have a couple FriXion highlighters in the US, but was interested in trying out their erasable pens. This way I can use them for scheduling when I need to make changes sometimes. I think they start at 160 yen each but there are different varieties. I got a 0.4 which has such a tiny tip I’m scared I’ll break it. I’m not really used to it yet and it isn’t as juicy as the Sarasa pens, but I like that I can erase. I got a green one and don’t really like the color. After checking, this size (FriXion point, 220 yen list) can’t be refilled. Another thing is the color is really too light – I can’t see it clearly so it doesn’t help me out when I use it for to do lists. I might try a thicker refillable one in a dark color.
I had heard Midliners are a nice light highlighter, but hadn’t tried them out until recently. I don’t do a ton of highlighting but they also work as markers (two sided!). The colors available at the recycle shop were mostly bad, but I got a blue-green one and really like it. It’s a great option when everything else is florescent colors. I want to get a pale yellow one next. They’re 100 yen list price.
On my to buy list:
Copic markers (which are made in Japan, but I’ve never seen them here)
More Poscas and Midliners
Uniball Signo pen in white (and other opaque ‘milky’ colors) maybe, but I rarely write on dark colored paper, which is what these are best for.
What do you like that I should try?
Okay, admit it, are there any other stationery dorks out there? It’s okay, you’re safe here.
It’s great for stationery dorks in Japan, but I have a haunch that most of Asia is good. I think it’s official that I’m a dork if I want to travel just to go to stationery stores. (I also want to eat and go sightseeing, so maybe that part’s normal.)
In S. Korea, I recommend Artbox as well as the Morning Glory stationery shops. Be sure to check out Jetoy (ChooChoo Cat) and Ihave designs if you can find them. The tiny family owned shops and 1000 won (100 yen) stores are great as well. (Yep, I wanna visit again. For the food and stationery.)
In Hong Kong and mainland China (Guangzhou) I don’t remember there being any one specific store I liked for stationery, but the 100 yen type stores and bookstores were hard to leave for sure.
I’m hoping to get to Taiwan, Peru, Thailand, New Zealand, and Iceland, as my top five places to visit. Any word on the stationery scene there?