Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Midori Traveler's Notebook

The notebook after several weeks of wear

 I'm not sure what I had originally started out looking for, but one morning I found myself plummeting down the rabbit hole of heirloom journals and premium papers. Have you had this experience? When you stumble across one of the many highly specialized subgroups on the internet with their own lingo and holy grails, and you're horribly fascinated and somewhat repelled but just keep reading (hint: if you ever want to find an answer to an obscure question, just google search your key terms and "forum").  Eventually, I came away a little boggle-headed but also a lot more schooled within a very narrow body of knowledge. And I found a better journal for me than all the previous ones I've tried over the years. In short order, a small part of my tax refund was applied to a Midori Traveler's Notebook coming all the way from Japan.

It's a simple notebook system, in the quiet and refined style that the Japanese do well. There's a thick vegetable-tanned leather cover that's made in Chiangmai, Thailand; elastics that hold the pieces inside as well as wrap around the entire journal; and a tin medallion to bind the elastics together. You can swap in different notebooks and other accessories to customize it to your needs. It's designed to be personalized, portable, and long-lasting. Once a notebook is filled, it can be slipped off and swapped for a new blank one. It's only the paper notebooks that have to be replaced, not the whole journal itself.

The notebook can comfortably accommodate about three notebooks before it gets too fat

I decided to customize mine with a blank notebook, a 2-month daily diary, a graph-lined notebook, a zip pouch, and a credit card holder. That way, I would have a place for thoughts, inspiration, a daily journal, receipts, and less important credit cards that don't fit in my wallet. I imagine it to be a cross between a Filofax and an ordinary journal, versatile enough to warrant my taking it everywhere, and therefore capable of actually being a kind of ongoing scrapbook of my life. One user described it as "adventure journaling."

This is how the 2-month universal diary is set up

Now that I've had it for a few weeks, switching out different notebooks and changing the order of things until it felt just so, I have to say that I really love it. The leather is getting worn just as expected, still stiff and sturdy but with a crosshatching of surface scuffs and wear marks (if I ever decide I dislike the worn-in look, I can oil it and it all disappears). And it's been very convenient to have a central location for my things. When I change bags, I just grab my wallet, phone, and notebook.

It's turning out as useful as I had hoped, and I feel some easing of my anxiety that time is passing me by, unrecorded. And ultimately, that is the reason I got the notebook. Flipping through my old journals gave me a feeling of connectedness to the past and to my former self. I felt a mixture of curiosity, surprise, and nostalgia, and I was glad to have them.

Fountain pens exhibit little feathering on the paper (quotes are from Walden)

To complete the tour of this rabbit warren, here are a few places I came across in my readings that may interest you. In no particular order:
- the Midori Traveler's Notebook Flickr group
- the "adventure journaling" YouTube unboxing and review
- Everyday Carry (kind of like the ever-popular "what's in your purse?" post, but predominantly male and with a survivalist slant)
- the 2013 Hong Kong ferry meetup to commemorate the anniversary edition
- the brand website, which includes profiles of artists and other notable persons and how they use the notebook, along with uploads from ordinary users

I went whole hog and acquired a Lamy Safari fountain pen, too

Note: You don't have to order directly from Japan to get this notebook. It's even sold on Amazon, but it turned out to be about 25% cheaper for me to order from a Japanese website even with shipping (pencils.jp, if you're interested), and there was a complete selection of accessories.


  1. I know exactly what you mean about the obsessions stemming from internet exploration. See: makeup, lux stationery, polaroid, fragrance... I've thought about getting one of these for a while, and I think you've convinced me! Christmas present to myself I think.

  2. I bought a moleskine diary earlier in the year, but it has not served me how I wish.
    All I need is for somewhere where I can jot down notes, brief things to remember, store papers that I need on me and receipts to file eventually as I use my Outlook calendar for appointments etc - this looks like it may fit the bill. Thanks for posting :)

  3. Im in love my Traveler's Notebook. It gets so deliciously worn, discoloured and soft with age.

  4. I've been meaning to purchase one of these - I have all these images saved of how people have used them differently, and they seem to be invaluable for storing little travel notes.

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