Best Notebooks for Fountain Pens - There are Lots and Lots of Amazing Japanese Paper Out There
What I Learned During the Great Tomoe River Discontinuance of 2021
If the stationery world has been more up in arms about something in the last few years, I’m not aware of it. The news that Tomoe River paper would no longer be manufactured reverberated throughout the fountain community, causing reams to disappear from shelves before the rumor mill could even sort out the truth of what was left of the world’s supply.
I will be the first to admit that I frantically emailed Yunus and asked for a spare set (okay, fine, two spare sets of my favorite sizes of Everyday Books to be sent. My trusty B5 Everyday Book is a luxury and nearly a necessity!) Yunus remained calm during our back and forth. He soothed my frazzled “in love with 68gsm” nerves and assured me that Galen had a fair amount of Tomoe River paper in stock (the old version for you purists out there) and that there were also some alternatives that I needed to give a chance to or revisit after abandoning them for TR.
If you haven’t, this would be a good time to head here: https://www.galenleather.com/collections/japanese-notebooks
You will find that there are a whole range of beautiful Japanese papers that, while they may not be a substitute for Tomoe River, are worthy opponents and in fact, for some applications are a better choice. I heard those audible gasps. It’s true!
Here are the six fountain pen friendly notebooks, I gave a whirl that gave me hope for a happy future for myself and my pens (this melodrama is just slightly exaggerated by the way. It’s just paper people!)
Midori MD Paper Notebook
This is classic as classic gets. Let’s start with the cover which has simple white cloth tape binding and a glassine book jacket. (There is something about the crinkle of the cover that harkens the crinkle of Tomoe River.) The paper, which Midori started making in 1960 has been continually improved over the past sixty plus years to be pleasurable, comfortable with just the right amount of feedback. It comes with a bookmark for keeping track of your progress and stickers to mark the dates the notebook was in use for cataloging.
Life Noble Notebook
For many years, since the 40’s to be exact, The Life Paper company has been manufacturing their beautiful paper. It was a long-kept secret that didn’t reach past Japanese borders until the turn of the 21st century. I discovered this elusive paper at my friend Chandra Greer’s stationery store in Chicago and I couldn’t get over the design and the quality. Revisiting this paper was like seeing an old friend. It has a warm, cream, hue, is smooth and thick and you can feel all the hands that touched its 100 pages while it was being made outside of Tokyo. It’s a handmade luxury, a true beauty and I’ve happily added back into my rotation.
Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook
These notebooks are named after the Greek goddess of Memory and all your memories are well kept when penned in this notebook. It’s a beautifully microperforated book with thoughtful details that add to its sleek and sophisticated interior, kept safe by the chic, durable, black, exterior. Bright white 80 gsm paper can withstand a lot of ink, glue stick and even a light wash of watercolor. It makes a great notebook for students and for professionals.
Apica CD Notebook
At 28 pages the Apica is a slim profile notebook which is portable and offers the flexibility of having multiples of them to organize your projects or for various subjects. Made since 1987, these notebooks have vintage looking covers that give them a bit of flair and sturdy covers which house bright, smooth, white paper. It’s economical and it won’t weigh your everyday carry bag down. Everyone should have a few Apica brand notebooks.
Stalogy notebooks have long been a favorite of mine. Even while in the throes of my love affair with Tomoe River, I have always had a Stalogy in use. They have one of my favorite qualities of TR (the crinkle! I do love the crinkle!) and the addition of the printing that allows one to easily date the page (though you may need a magnifying glass or readers to read it,) make it a great notebook for journaling and course work. The thinness of the paper makes it a great everyday carry whether you choose the full year or half year size. The limited-edition colors launched this year have also made it an attractive selection for a TR replacement for me.
Cosmo Air Light Everyday Book
Perhaps the paper that has come up most in the community as the savior when the last of the TR is gone and our stockpiles depleted, is Cosmo Air Light. Surprisingly, it is not necessarily because it is a similar paper, its texture, weight, how it reacts with ink, don’t really resemble TR. What is does do similarly is allow pens and inks to show off like the former. Colors look vibrant on Cosmo Air Light. Shading and sheening are given the full treatment on this paper. The paper is almost glossy and full of glide. If you prefer a paper with any amount of feedback, this is not the one for you, but if you want your pen to fly, this paper was made for you.
So, pen community, whom I love, let’s keep an open mind and give some love to papers other than the stockpile of Tomoe River you’re holding on to for a rainy day. Do you have a favorite alternative? I would love to hear about it in the comments section. After all, one can never have enough variety when it comes to notebooks and paper.
Ahhh yes, this crazy moment where TR is possibly in the rear view soon.. so I’ll say this.. I love Midori MD paper for its clean, straight forward and super minimalistic feel and look. Inks look beautiful and behave well on it, though the yellowish hue obscures some ink colors a bit, the saturation of the ink and feel of the nib on this paper is lovely. I always dig writing on Midori MD. It feels like an old friend, familiar, easy, and very special.
I actually prefer Cosmo Air Light to TR 68gsm, it’s velvety, and warm feeling to write on, the inks love this paper too. CAL is fresh feeling and the slight feedback feels like new fallen snow snow, a little crisp and a little cushy. This paper is exciting to me.
Of course, 52 gsm TR is certainly top notch, sigh. I also have been loving certain onion skin paper.. the sound and feel are so great, the inks like it too, you can only really write on one side, so there’s that, but it’s a fun experience writing on it. It has the feel of parchment but very thin, I’m hooked. Bless all of us TR devotees. Thankful for those of us who can keep their heads, and look to a super enjoyable and fun fountain pen future which is brighter and brighter, as we near that horizon.
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Katy worked in a stationery shop for nearly a decade, so She’s educated on many products and stationery client questions. She is also stationery - planner - fountain pen fanatic.