Japanese stationery is well loved, and for good reason.
It has a reputation for quality and innovation, thoughtful design, and for consistently exceeding the high expectations of stationery snobs around the world.
Even everyday note-taking paper is manufactured well above the average stationery products that are produced by Western manufacturers. Pens come in a variety of options (especially the super fine tips for writing in tiny spaces) unlike the basic ballpoints littering desks across America.
All of this quality and design is aimed at meeting Japanese customer demands and needs for efficiency and practicality.
Stationery manufacturers around the world look to Japanese stationery manufacturers and trends for their innovation and creativity, while customers seek timeless quality that works really well at achievable and reasonable prices.
With stores dedicated to Japanese stationery and even travel itineraries for those visiting Japan looking specifically to shop for stationery, it’s definitely a thing. So if you’re new to the scene and feeling behind, here are all the reasons why people (soon to include you) love Japanese stationery and how the country’s manufacturers earned this international, cult-like following.
How did Japanese stationery earn its reputation?
In Japan, handwriting is seen and respected as an art form. The country has a strong tradition of helping their citizens to develop an interest in writing by hand from a young age.
Calligraphy is an example of that strongly held tradition, and in Japanese culture it is still widely taught today. The intricate characters of calligraphy often require fine tipped pens or brush pens in order to be readable and neat on paper.
With such a presence and appreciation for hand written work and calligraphy, pens and paper must stand up to the demand. In order to deliver quality results, customers need a high quality product.
Another reason Japanese stationery has such a well loved reputation is the result of a competitive industry with many players vying for customers. As a result, Japanese stationery manufacturers constantly seek ways to improve currently available products and create new and novel ones.
The result is a consumer base that expects the best in their daily stationery products, not just the high end, and won’t put up with paper and pens that bleed and feather or break. With a variety of options and eagerly awaited innovations, brands creatively cater to what their customers want and expect to experience.
Sophisticated customers require sophisticated products; the Japanese culture of high quality stationery helps to perpetuate of a future of continued high quality.
Why do people around the world love Japanese stationery?
Let us count the ways you’ll fall in love with Japanese stationery, including some Japanese stationery products to be on the lookout for.
1. It’s functional and practical.
Japanese stationery aims to please and deliver products that really work. For example, the richness of fountain pen ink doesn’t necessarily require thick paper; resilient, thin paper is the answer that Tomoe River Paper excels in. Japanese products deliver results in unexpected packages that often look and feel better than the standard.
Hate that binder clips get stuck and don’t lie flat when you stack a series of them together? Velos bind clips perfectly fold flat and onto the side rather than sticking up and out. Functional products like these improve the writing and paper experience, and bely an attention to detail and care for the customer’s end experience.
2. Comes in beautiful (and super cute!) design options.
The Japanese cultural cuteness factor is known as “kawaii.” And stationery products are no exception.
A perfect example of this is the simple eraser, as perfected in the form of Iwako Novelty Erasers. These erasers are so cute, wildly popular, and look good enough to eat.
And if you haven’t yet heard of washi tape, it’s an amazing type of paper that’s similar to tape, allowing you to stick down the tape-like product (or just a piece of it), but remove and move it around if you need to. They come in so many beautiful designs (check out the Bande brand or the options available in our Ink+Volt store). We love washi tape for its versatility, and with so many varieties available, there is one to match anyone’s personal style.
3. Creative, innovative approaches to stationery problems.
Creativity seems to be endless in Japan. And manufacturers design products using the brain power of physicists, designers, and engineers. From a pencil sharpener that draws the pencil in as it sharpens and pushes it out when it’s sharp enough (no more guessing if it’s sharp), to a smart ring binder that is as thin as a notebook (one notebook that can easily cover multiple topics simply by reorganizing the pages), these are just a few of the creative ways Japanese stationery manufacturers have developed stationery that pushes the envelope.
4. Timeless sophistication.
Products that last and don’t go out of style are the signature of Japanese stationery companies.
Kunisawa is one such company (Ink+Volt was the first U.S. company to carry their paper products!) that offers an aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, gender neutral, and top of the line paper product. Paper that is literally as smooth as silk, it makes writing by hand a dream come true. Quality at a reasonable price, in a style that broadcasts sophistication and class.
5. High quality, made-to-last products.
Inexpensive Japanese stationery does not equate to cheap, poorly made products. With customers who have such a high quality bar, Japanese stationery manufacturers simply don’t cut corners. One example is the brush pen by Kuretake, the Wink of Stella Glitter Pen, which is versatile enough for cards, lettering, and journaling, that costs less than $3.00.
You can’t go wrong with any of the brands mentioned in this post if you’re looking for high quality Japanese stationery, but even if you’re on a budget, you will be able to find Japanese products that are innovative, stylish, and useful.
6. Respect for the creative process.
Japanese stationery manufacturers are respectful of the writing process, small details, and what their customers want. The writing experience is interactive and creative, and these products are meant to engage and excite customers through all elements of writing (paper, pen, pencil, highlighter, eraser, pencil sharpeners, decorative tape, etc.)
7. An eye for and attention to detail.
Small details are what make similar products stand out from each other, and make a product functional, fun, and beautiful all at the same time. From the copper edges of Kunisawa’s paper products to perfectly engineered pens (Pilot brand is just one to name) or Kokuyo highlighters, details make a big difference.
We love Japanese stationery
For all of the reasons shared above, Japanese stationery is the gold standard and model for excellent, superb stationery products!
If there’s a stationery product or invention you ever wondered was out there, look to the world of Japanese stationery, where they’ve likely worked out a solution you will love. Plus, the “kawaii” factor really does brighten any piece of paper, planner, journal, or deskspace!