I love to see pens in action, and Instagram has a great community of fountain pen addicts, posting awesome pictures of their prized pens. With good pens comes good paper, and it appears that the stationary community on Instagram is just as strong. Although I can appreciate a nice notebook, my tastes are relatively simple. I replenished my supply of Muji blank notebooks during my last trip to Japan and have had little reason to consider anything else. These notebooks are high quality, great for fountain pens, and ridiculously inexpensive. Muji notebooks have been my gotos for some time, but my journey down the Instagram rabbit hole yielded some interesting finds. I noticed countless Hobonichis and Field Notes notebooks, but these just aren't for me. The Hobonichi planner is beautiful, but my appointments have to live in Outlook, and I take notes in spurts. Sometimes it's a waste for me have one page for each day, and other times it simply isn't enough. I started to notice that a weird-looking leather-bound notebook was popping up over and over again. There are thousands of images with the tag #Midori. Intriguing... What is this mysterious thing?
I love fountain pens because they have character and stick around like a firm friend. Notebooks yield zero emotional attachment for me. They will inevitably be filled and filed, probably never to be read again. The idea of a notebook that ages and matures, yet can be changed and customized is alluring. The Midori Traveler's Notebook is essentially a flap of leather that comes with a rubber band and a few bits of string. The full-sized versions go for $60 on reputable stationary sites; however, Amazon currently offers them for $36. Refills and customization options are seemingly endless, which is the notebook's major selling point. Notebook refills are typically 64 pages, which is great from someone who feels anxiety when given a several-hundred-page notebook. I was prepared to pull the trigger, but decided that it would be wiser to spend $8 on a refill first, to decide if I liked the paper size and quality. $36 is a lot to spend on a notebook that might not work for me.
After a bit of reading, I settled on the Midori Traveler's Notebook Refill #13 Lightweight Blank Paper (now that's a mouthful). The kraft paper covered notebook comes with 128 pages of the legendary Tomoe River paper, which I'd heard about on the Pen Addict Podcast. This refill seemed like the best bang for the buck, considering that it had double the pages of the standard refill.
The notebook arrived, awkwardly smashed in my mailbox, with zero concern for the delicate Tomoe River paper that I had agonized over. Despite initial concern, the notebook was in pristine shape.
The Midori Traveler's Notebook paper is about an inch wider than a Field Notes notebook, and three or four inches taller. Although the refills aren't as wide as the Muji notebooks that I typically use, they sit comfortably within the the range of both portability and usability. But what about the paper quality?
The Tomoe River paper is tissue-paper thin but amazingly sturdy. My black Noodler's Bulletproof ink lays down crisply on the page, with no feathering. Dry time is longer than normal paper, but not long enough to be a deal breaker. While there is enough ghosting to prevent use of the back of the page, there isn't any bleed through. It's worth noting that I tested the paper with a fine Kaweco nib, so I'm unsure of how the paper performs with a broader nib. This paper is clearly designed for fountain pens. I do wish that the notebook cover would lay flat, but I'm hoping that this will improve after a breaking-in period.
I'm very pleased with the quality of the Midori #013 refill. I do prefer grid or dot grid paper, but the Tomoe River paper is so thin that it would be easy to pick up a grid guide to place underneath it. I played with the paper a bit and felt that it was the right size for me, so I pulled the trigger on the full-sized Midori Traveler's Notebook. I just wasn't expecting to like the paper this much! Considering the price and performance, I think that this refill will be the star of my notebook-to-be.