Kokuyo IDEA Notebooks–A Good Notebook Full of Bad Ideas

The Kokuyo IDEA notebook is a great idea in the wrong size and shape.

For those of us sick enough to follow the stationery and pen business, the trendiest paper you can use as a fountain pen user is Tomoe River paper from Japan. (Note: that’s Toe Moe Eh with the last syllable pronounced the same as “day”)

Tomoe River paper is thin but fountain pen friendly, meaning when you use a fountain pen, ink doesn’t bleed through and stain the page below. Unfortunately there aren’t that many products made with Tomoe River paper except thick notebooks and annual planners that are too thick to carry.

However, Japanese stationery company Kokuyo recently produced the JIBUN_TECHO or personal diary system (link in Japanese). It is a personal calendar and diary system comprised of a reusable cover filled with three replaceable and interchangeable inserts: DIARY, which is a daily planner made of Tomoe River paper; LIFE, which is a kind of organized book of lists made from thicker Mio paper; IDEA which is Tomoe River paper printed with dot grid graph paper pattern designed for random scribbles and scrapbooking.

The main problem with the IDEA notebook is the size.¬† At 21 cm by 12.5 cm (8.26″ by 4.9″) it is too big to fit in a pocket which means you always have to have a bag to carry it in. It’s also too wide¬† to fit in the popular Midori Traveler’s Notebook leather covers (more on that later) .

The IDEA notebook compared with a Field Notes notebook.

The IDEA notebook compared with a Field Notes Red Blooded notebook.

That, however, is my only complaint. The notebook consists of 40 sheets of Tomoe River paper stitched together rather than stapled and printed with a 3 mm dot grid pattern (with a hard rule on the left). Despite the size, it’s the paper that makes this an excellent notebook. Tomoe River paper is unlike any other paper and is a treat to write on. I use mine to record a daily list of ten or more ideas–business ideas, article ideas, blog post ideas, ideas for other blogs, and lots of bad ideas–and I rotate to through my various fountain pens and inks.

Thus far the only ink I’ve had problems with is Noodler’s Apache Sunset which seems designed to test the limits of every form of paper. It has a lot of ghosting and, especially with a thick nib and/or a flex nib, occasional spots of bleedthrough. This doesn’t bother me as I’ve learned to embrace the bleedthrough, but it can be a deal breaker for some pen users.

An example of the ghosting. Surprisingly, it didn't bleed through to the next page.

An example of Apache Sunset ghosting from a Kaweco Sport with an M nib. Also a good look at the dot grid pattern.

Unfortunately, the system isn’t very popular in Japan and I can’t imagine the notebooks being around much longer. That said, Kokuyo also recently released an IDEA mini, which is 18.2 cm by 10.7 cm (7.2″ by 4.2″) that appear to fit in the Traveler’s Notebook cover with some room to spare. They can be purchased from Nanami Paper.

I have a few of those, too. They are built the same and have the same paper and dot grid graph pattern. They just don’t hold as many bad ideas.





2 thoughts on “Kokuyo IDEA Notebooks–A Good Notebook Full of Bad Ideas

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