Like all things in Japan it began with a speech. Then there was another speech. I felt both speeches in my bones because I was standing near the speaker and the volume was set to “STUN”. The speeches were followed by introductions and a ribbon cutting ceremony. And then I got in with no one realizing I was an impostor.
Today was the first day of the 26th International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo (ISOT). When I first heard about it, I applied to enter as a member of the press, using my blog and promises to write things for the Pen Addict and other blogs and was surprised to get accepted.
To get in, all I had to do was present two business cards. My name was located on the official list and I was given a press pass and an arm band that allowed me to take photos.
Once inside we had, if I’m doing the math correctly, 10 US football fields’ worth of exhibits we were free to visit.
The ISOT section occupied about 2 1/2 football fields with the biggest booths being near the entrance.
Because it was a trade show that was not open to the public, it was common to enter a booth and hear a group of people making valuable deals on the spot. Most booths had at least one table set aside for business meetings and one booth attendant who could speak English and who always tried to get you talking.
I, of course, went looking for pens and paper. Except for Zebra and Kuretake, not many of the major pen manufacturers had booths. King Jim had some pen oddities, including a pen with a built in spot vibrator that activates when you press it against your neck.
I did manage to find a number of interesting pen manufacturers from Korea and Turkey. Because I was from the USA they wanted to know if I knew how to get them access to the US market. I said, “pay me a couple million dollars and we’ll figure it out together”. Well, that’s what I should have said. Instead I suggested they contact Jetpens.
The most interesting exhibits were a Korean pen manufacturer who sells clicky markers and white board markers, and a Turkish manufacturer (link in Turkish) with some good cheap ballpoint pens. Kobeha (link in Japanese) had SUITO Cleaning Paper which is designed to clean fountain pen nibs. I’ll review that in the future but it already received a stationery product of the year nomination.
Kobeha also produce a range of fountain pen friendly notebooks and had a couple Lamy Safari pens available for testing. I scoffed at those pens and pulled out my bandolier of fountain pens and started breaking the hearts of the booth attendants. The paper had no bleed through or ghosting but you had to wait seven or eight days for ink from a wet nib to dry. At one point I had an audience and a Chinese greeting card maker gave me his card and asked if I knew any printing companies. I said “pay me a couple million dollars and we’ll figure it out together” but then said I didn’t know any personally.
Along the way I picked up several random notebooks, including a couple A7 sized notebooks made with 68# and 52# Tomoe River paper, and a few pens and pencils that I’ll review and then probably pass on to others.
I’m glad I went and I wish I had time to go again tomorrow and make some more contacts. I found that with a press pass if I stopped, asked a few questions and took notes in my Field Notes America the Beautiful with their pens they would eventually give me something in exchange for a business card. In a couple cases I’ll talk about in future posts, I recommended products they could sell to the Pen Addict community.
Now I have a lot of reviews to do. Oh, and exams to mark. I can’t forget the exams.