Tag Archives: ISOT

Stationery of The Year: ISOT 27

The only thing that interested me was the stapler. The rest made me think I should be a member of the committee.

Every year at the International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo (note: link now getting ready for next year) a select group of five people choose new products for the “Grand Prix” or top products of the year. The two main categories are “Functionality” and “Design”. Last year’s winners included Suito Cleaning Paper and an expensive tape measure.

This year’s nominees, and winners, were, for the most part, unimpressive.

The Lihit Lab standing pen case had potential but suffered from being silicon, which made it slippery. It also requires two hands to use. To open you had to unzip it, then you pushed it on the desk and a center tube  pushed the pens and pencils up.  When you went to close the case, you had to pull the tube down. I told them it would be really cool if I could squeeze it to open it and then squeeze back after standing it up.

The paper products weren’t that interesting. The “Design” Grand Prix winner featured Japanese manuscript paper printed with color unique enough that people apparently use it for wrapping paper. It’s not that useful, though, unless you write manuscripts in Japanese or wrap presents.

The Knoxbrain LUFT is a more traditional sized Traveler’s notebook (no surprise as Knoxbrain is owned by DESIGNPHIL which owns Traveler’s) It uses ring clips which makes it a thin Filofax. It was nice looking but was nothing special.

I liked the white board brush, but it’s more of a specialty item than something useful to the general public.

The lighted hanko/chop is interesting, and I like that all you have to do is touch the bottom section with your finger to turn on the light,but it’s more for people worried about getting things perfect than for the general public.

The ruler pen thing was well made, and reasonably priced, but not something I’d ever need.

I liked the bookends. The colors were great and they had a brushed texture that was cool. I’ll look for them in the future.

My favorite thing was the stapler. It’s made by Max, who also make an impressive small stapler capable of binding 40 pages with no problems. Th award nominee is the size of a thick USB thumb drive and designed to be carried loose in a pencil case. It handles 10-15 pages with only two fingers. I liked it enough I ordered one after I got home.

My only complaint about the small stapler was the name. Never call your product “gimmick” (says the man who calls his blog Mere Blather).


Pens Among the Office Supplies

I was mostly looking for notebooks, and scaring the hell out of the people who make them, but ran into a guy who likes fountain pens and that slowed me down.

Today I was lucky to have the time to head down to Tokyo Big Sight to attend the International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo. I’ll write more posts on this in the future, but today’s story was typical of why I like the pen and stationery community.

First, I made it my mission to track down non-Japanese pens and stationery. I found a number of pen manufacturers from Korea, Taiwan, China and Turkey who all offered interesting pens (one of my favorites featured Japanese ink and Swiss pen tips in Chinese bodies).

However, this year there seemed to be more notebook manufacturers than last year.

It therefore became my job to scare the notebook manufacturers by using my two wettest fountain pens to test the fountain pen friendly nature of their paper. A typical conversation went:

Me: Are these fountain pen friendly?
Victim: Yes, they are.
Me (taking out my Nock Co Sinclair full of pens): Oh, really?
Victim (as I write on the paper): Gasp.

Several of the manufacturers expressed relief when their paper held up–more on that in a future post–and all admitted they were nervous when I started testing. None of them failed horrible, all though some did have minor bleedthrough. Granted, some of them seemed to think I was more professional than I am but no one was upset by the testing.

Note: I realize that, perhaps scaring the hell out of people is not the best way to win friends and influence people, but it did kind of make me a friend. One notebook maker, though, said he was a fan of fountain pens and, sure enough, his notebooks held up well. This, however, led to a long “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” meeting where we played with each other’s goods, so to speak.

I was impressed that he was interested enough in fountain pens to interrupt his work to try out the ones I was carrying. He also gave me a couple notebooks, including one with a cover and two refills and promised more samples if I was able to show up on Friday.

Still don’t know if I will, but it does have me wondering who else I can get samples from since it’s the last day…

Random Oddities at ISOT

Part 2 of my International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo coverage: Random thoughts.

During the ISOT, a young guy almost let me ruin a notebook before an older, wiser man realized what I was about to do and answered my question before I did.

I was in the Sanyo Shigyo booth which featured a collection of random items with paper covers and I was about to subject the top two pages of a thick 352 page notebook/notepad called the Paper Mille-Feuille to my wettest fountain pens. The Paper Milles-Feuille features a tough paper cover that, if I understood the designer correctly, was layered and compressed to make it feel like board. It was square and glue bound on one side and I couldn’t tell it was supposed to be a desktop notebook or a giant notepad. (It would depend on how well the binding held up.)

The paper was smooth but before I tested it, the older man told me it wasn’t fountain pen friendly and ink would bleed through. Not wanting to ruin the notebook I took his word for it. The younger man assured me they were working on finding paper to make it fountain pen friendly and wanted to know if I would buy it. I said, as diplomatically as possible, that I already had too many notebooks but others I knew might like it.

I also suggested he have some paper samples nearby for people to try.

The Mille-Feuille next to a Field Notes notebook. Wide angle distortion makes the FN look giant.

The Mille-Feuille next to a Field Notes notebook. Wide angle distortion makes the FN look giant.

In fact, I spent a great amount of time convincing notebook makers to make small, fountain pen friendly notebooks. The DESIGNPHIL booth had several new MD notebooks that are, for the most part, fountain pen friendly but other booths did not. To prove it, DESIGNPHIL was handing out small notebooks made from their paper.

The DESIGNPHIL booth was awesome.

The DESIGNPHIL booth was awesome. (And bigger than my apartment. This is only half.)

MD Notebooks. the Bottom right has a paper cover that feels like leather.

MD Notebooks in the DESIGNPHIL booth. The Bottom right notebook has a paper cover that feels like leather.

At other booths I suggested the pencil case makers have leather versions of their products. As much as I like my nylon Nock Co pen cases, they won’t age as well as leather. Lihit Lab, which makes some popular pen cases, didn’t have much that I liked. Even their large carry-alls were designed for people who only carry one or two pens. (I’ve heard of such people existing, but I don’t know anyone who’s actually seen one. They are Bigfoot to me.)

Part of Lihit Lab's booth.

Part of Lihit Lab’s booth. You can see that the carry-all on the left only has slots for two pens. 

Then there were the oddities. I mentioned before that King Jim, which specializes in oddities, had a vibrating pen for helping you massage your neck when you’ve been writing too long. These are interesting, but it’s not something I’ve ever actually wanted.

That's not a stylus at the top, it's a button that triggers a massage.

That’s not a stylus at the top; it’s a button that triggers a massage.

The also had a Pen/Stylus with a nock. Undeployed it’s a styulus; with the nock depressed, it’s a ballpoint pen. I know myself too well and I know that scratched screens would ensue with something like that.

This is a ruined iPad waiting to happen.

This is a ruined iPad waiting to happen.

The most unusual, though, as if a vibrating pen weren’t unusual enough, were the leather slip covers/carriers for Yamato liquid glue. Yamato glue is ubiquitous and cheap. A couple bottles can be had for around a hundred yen and everyone I know in Japan has at least one bottle somewhere in their house. Putting a leather slip cover on it would be like having a leather carrying case for a Bic Cristal.  It may look cool but you’re turning a cheap product into an expensive accessory.

These look kind of cool but don't seem necessary. Also, what keeps the glue in the cone?

These look kind of cool but don’t seem necessary. Also, what keeps the bottle in the cone?

There were a couple other oddities worth mentioning. One company, and I neglected to write down the booth’s name, had notebooks made from random paper, some of it rough, dark graph paper that seemed more useful for show rather than for use. They also had folio sized blank books that seemed as if they were destined to be guest books for an artists desktop sketch book. Or they were just for display, I still can’t decide which.

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the others.







One Day With Stationery and Business Deals

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.

My press pass and the floor plan of the venue.

My press pass and the floor plan of the venue. We were free to visit all areas.

The ribbon cutting ceremony. The speaker set on STUN is below the gentleman on the left.

The ribbon cutting ceremony. The speaker set to STUN is below the gentleman on the left.

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.

Looking down the long side of the venue. The white frame in the distance is half way to the far wall.

Some scale: The white structure along the ceiling is halfway to the far wall. One third of the venue is behind me.

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.

Swag. The orange pen is Korean, the other two are Turkish. The pencil is Korean. The punched paper is the SUITO cleaning paper.

Swag. The orange pen is Korean, the others are Turkish. The pencil is Korean. The SUITO cleaning paper is on the left.

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.