I always am on the lookout for new places to buy quality notebooks and pens. D.C. doesn’t have as many stationery stores as NYC, but it does have the homegrown Jenni Bick. I visited it a year ago, and finally had the chance to go again with a friend. The store is located only a few minutes walk from the Dupont Circle metro, if you take the 19th Street exit. There is also a Krispy Kreme nearby, if you hunger for fresh donuts and paper. 🙂
The store is easy to see, with a giant selection of notebooks displayed proudly in the window. Once inside, a rainbow of Leuchtturm1917s greet you, stretching across the wall to your left! Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the 1917, this display makes me smile.
You’ll find many types of notebooks here, both the usual Moleskines and Paper Blanks, to Japanese brands like Midori or Stalogy, to more obscure companies. The selection has only gotten larger since last year, to my delight. The Leuchtturms take up much of the front. There is a section for Nuuna notebooks, which I had never seen in person before! There is also a clearance table, a Moleskine display, some fountain pens behind clear glass and fountain pen ink from Lamy, Faber-Castell and J. Herbin. Jenni Bick also has a selection of store-made leather journals. They are beautiful but extremely expensive. If you need a memorable scrapbook or journal, this section is for you.
There also is some art supplies in the back! There is a table with notebooks for people to try out and write in. This is a great idea because often I am enthralled by a notebook’s cover but disappointed when the paper ends up being terrible.
The employees are so nice and helpful here! They are knowledgable about every type of paper. Honestly, I’d love to work at Jenni Bick so I could be around stationery all day. I was heading to the Phillips Collection afterwards, so I couldn’t buy anything too big or bulky. So I settled for a blue inkpad, a Stalogy365, a discounted Semikolon notebook and some elastic bands for my Traveller Notebook.
If you’re in Dupont Circle, I recommend stopping by. There are other great stores and museums nearby. Second Story Books is a treasure for anyone who loves used books for cheap!
For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.
Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.
100 gsm cream dot grid paper
A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
$20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
two ribbon bookmarks
no table of contents or numbered pages
I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.
The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.
But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.
Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.
Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook
Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.
Comparison to Baron Fig:
The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.
The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.
The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.
The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.
front of Baron Fig paper
back of Baron Fig Paper
Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.
I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.
I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.
Note: Read my other posts about stationery shops here and here.
So I went to Itoya Ginza and its related shop, K. Itoya, during my last day in Tokyo. Itoya is in the center of the Ginza shopping district, surrounded by luxury stores. Just look for the giant red paper clip jutting out from the building!
Itoya presented the stationery beautifully. It must have taken a long time to arrange all the stationery so perfectly. There were endless rows of letter paper, washi tape and pens. There were 12 floors, so a lot to choose from! Not all the floors catered to stationery lovers. I spotted travel and home good sections. There’s also a nice restaurant!
Wax seals and stamps
Expensive glass dip pens
But most of it didn’t really speak to me. The items was either too expensive or not my style. The service was also quite slow. Compared to Sekeido, Itoya was too upscale and curated for me. The notebook selection was lackluster in the main store. There wasn’t enough variety and everything was full price. I liked the K. Itoya better. It was less sterile, and had a good notebook section. There were also cute school supplies. My favorite part was the table devoted to astronomy-themed stationery!
A notebook making section. I was going to order one, but nobody was at the counter
Love Kokuyo Soft Rings
Life paper is great
Astronomy themed supplies
I did buy a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 in Yama Budo color, a pen I’ve coveted since the beginning of my pen obsession. And I grabbed Pilot Iroshizuko Momiji for 1500 yen!
I had a much better time when I went to Kyoto. There I visited Loft and Tag Stationery. They were two very different stores. Loft was a Target-style store, with many different floors devoted to fashion, travel, home goods, gifts, etc. Tag Stationery was a smaller, specialized shop.
Loft was in a busy part of Kyoto, near my hotel. It had several floors, but it wasn’t all devoted to stationery. The third floor had all the journals, pens, art supplies and planners. There was a rainbow of notebooks in even more colors and types then I’d seen before! This had the best notebook section out of all the stores I visited so far. The Copic marker aisle was small and not as good as Tools. The fountain pen and ink counter was also small. But there were Loft exclusive Pilot Kakunos with magenta, pink or purple pen bodies. I got the purple pen. 🙂 There was even a cute Traveler’s Notebook set up. I even convinced my mom and sister to visit Loft. They both enjoyed it! My sister even bought a Traveler’s Notebook in passport size and some inserts to go with it. So proud of her. 😀
In comparison, Tag Stationery was a small niche store. Apparently that’s where the Tag inks came from. It was in a bustling shopping area. A small temple was next to it. I loved that about Kyoto, finding little shrines and temples everywhere!
I already had Kyo-no-oto Adzuki-iro but I bought Kyo-iro No. 2 Ohara’s Morning Snow and Kyo-no-oto Hisoku. Besides, the store-made inks, I also purchased a pinkish red Sailor demonstrator. There was an exclusive pink Pilot Prera but I didn’t get it. Tag also had a wonderful collection of letter writing paper and envelopes. I bought a nice set with flower patterns printed into the surface. I was surprised by the array of notebooks for young children. It seemed like the type of notebooks you’d buy for kindergarten. It had an unusual ruling, a large grid made up of four squares. They had pop culture references on the cover like Disney and Peanuts and Moomin. I always like finding new rulings!
Although, I didn’t enjoy Itoya as much, the other two stores more than made up for it! Next, I’ll post about the Traveler’s Factory store in Narita airport and other assorted places where I got my stationery.
My first stop of the day was at Kingdom Note! I’ve heard so much about this place. It’s a store that stocks pens, inks and notebooks. It has an exclusive line of inks that are inspired by animals and plants. Kingdom Note also collaborates with the Sailor company to make veggie themed pens! These store-exclusive products are not available in the U.S. I’ve seen them on Ebay for exorbitant amounts of money but I’d rather not pay those prices.
The store is on the 6th floor of a building in Shinjuku and is hard to see from the street. You will see a sign for KN and a camera shop. Luckily, its 5 minutes from my hotel!
The store was smaller than I thought it would be. Only a few people work there. The attendant helping me was really nice and he knew enough English for us to communicate. The store was filled with a wide variety of fountain pens, many of them European. The small selection of Nakayas dazzled me. There was a rack of notebooks, but nothing very special. My eyes were immediately drawn to the vegetable themed pens and the giant wall of ink. I bought a “green pepper” fountain pen in a broad nib but there was also a pumpkin themed one. You could buy matching 20ml inks for it. I certainly did! There were also demonstrators in bright colors but I already spent all my money for the day. 😛
I also tested a variety of inks. There’s a whole wall of them, both European and Japanese! I was given a binder full of ink sample cards then I chose which one to try. The attendant let me test them with a glass pen. I bought three inks, two of them in 50 ml bottles and the other in a tiny 20ml one. I bought the Mycena pura, a dusty pink color based on mushrooms. I first heard about it from a post on Reddit, but I thought I would never buy it! I also got Thysanostoma thysanura, a pinkish purple like a jellyfish. And I bought the matching green pepper ink to go with my pen. When I get back from Japan, I hope to have ink reviews up for them.
Make sure to get the tax refund taken care of! Foreigners have to pay an 8% tax rate for some purchases, but you can get it refunded in kiosks and at the airport. I got a slip of paper with my purchase that I can turn in later.
The people working there were really kind and I felt welcomed inside the store. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to a small boutique style store.
Tomorrow I’m going to Mt. Fuji on a tour but hopefully I’ll get to Itoya Ginza and Maruzen Nihombashi soon. I also added the Tools art supply store and Smiths to my list. It’s in the Lumine Est department store underneath the Shinjuku train station. I’m going to get Copic markers there. I will post more about the pen stores I visit!
The Lamy limited edition inks have both enchanted and disappointed me. I discovered the fountain pen world right after the beautiful Lamy Dark Lilac ink sold out. Luckily, I bought a lifetime supply of cartridges at the D.C Pen Show. Petrol didn’t appeal to me at all, so I let that one pass by. Like everyone else, I was annoyed to find out Pacific blue wasn’t a new color (still bought it though). Now Lamy Vibrant Pink comes out, and I’m in love again.
I bought the ink cartridges, $4.50 for five. This isn’t an eye-searing bubblegum pink like I feared it would be. It’s fun and different than others I’ve seen before. VP shades beautifully. Its color ranges from bright pink to a darker raspberry. It’s not garish but does stand out. I love using unusual ink colors so it’s great for me. It’s very legible and doesn’t strain the eyes. I used this ink to take lecture notes. Even better, VP has a touch of golden sheen! Not too much, but enough to make VP stand out from other pink inks I’ve tried. Just like Lamy Dark Lilac, the sheen needs to be coaxed out with good paper. It’s not visible on my sample paper, Rhodia No. 13 dot grid, nor my Maruman Spiral Note. Tomoe River is magical unicorn paper and brings out its subtle golden sheen. Surprisingly, Kokuyo Campus paper does too!
This ink is well-behaved in my Lamy Safari and doesn’t skip at all. Dry time is under 10 seconds, which is great for my note-taking needs. However, there is one drawback, something I’ve found with almost all red/pink inks. There’s extreme nib creep??? if that’s the right word for it. It’s because red/pink inks are more saturated than green/blue ones, so they leave behind residue on the nib. So my Lamy nib looks really gross.
But this has happened with Diamine Red Dragon, Monteverde Red, KWZ Crimson, etc. so it isn’t unusual. Wipe it off with a tissue if it bothers you.
This is the first pink ink I enjoy! I need to stock up on another bottle or three…
This is my first review, yay! Today, I tested Monteverde Ruby. It was $8 for 30ml. I don’t mind the smaller size because I never finish bottles anyway. I bought it at the Baltimore Pen Show, among other goodies. 🙂 Red is one of my favorite colors (besides teal) so I’m always on the lookout for new red inks to try.
This ink leans more towards orange-red, rather than being a true red. I expected more of a dark ruby color. But I was pleasantly surprised! Ruby reminds me of a flickering flame with its beautiful orange shading. Either that or tomato soup! There is no sheen, but this ink doesn’t need any to stand out. It has a lot of character and isn’t as flat as another favorite, Diamine Red Dragon. (Review forthcoming!) It’s a perfect shade to use in fall because it looks like autumn leaves.
Monteverde claims that its line of ink is lubricated, to stop the nib from drying out. As a result, I found Ruby very wet and certainly lubricated. On Rhodia dot grid paper, the ink dried completely after 15 seconds. I don’t have a photo of it, but on Tomoe River paper it took forever to dry. I accidentally smeared it after 30 seconds. So be careful if you use it on TR. I tend to use more absorbent, fast-drying paper so it doesn’t bother me.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, autumnal red ink, then Monteverde Ruby is a great choice! However, it doesn’t top Diamine Red Dragon as my favorite red ink.