The Monokaki is a A5 sized notebook which features fountain pen friendly paper. First introduced in 2010, the 160 page, thread-stitch bound notebook is manufactured by Masuya Corporation in Asakusa, Japan. Featuring a soft and flexible washi paper cover, Monokaki notebooks also come in B5 and B6 sizes.
The word “monokaki” literally refers to “a person who writes things”. The name therefore implies that the notebooks were made exclusively for writers. Unlike the mythical Moleskine, the provenance of Masuya paper products is well documented.
Masuya Corporation has had a long and illustrious history of four generations as a manufacturer of paper products. Founded in the year 1883 in Meiji era Japan, the business was then called the Kawaguchi store, and sold paper gift boxes for sweets using paper hand-made by farmers.
The company, which is now in its fourth generation, first manufactured its “Kotobukiya” paper on request from the late novelist Fumio Niwa. It was 1939 and World War II had just begun. Writers feared that government restrictions on consumables would make it hard to obtain manuscript paper.
At a literary club meeting in a Waseda cafe, a young Fumio Niwa met Hiro Kawaguchi, grandmother of the present day company owner. Niwa requested that Kawaguchi start making writing papers and it was there that Kotobukiya paper was born.
Ever since, Masuya’s papers have been used by members of the Japanese literary elite – this included Nobel Prize winning novelists Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburō Ōe, as well as Yukio Mishima, who was nominated three times unsuccessfully.
The Monokaki comes with a stylised, vintage-inspired cover made from Echizen washi paper. The cover was designed by manga artist Ryo Takagi for an old world appeal. The notebook is filled with cream coloured, archival quality paper, which is acid-free and therefore ideal for long term preservation.
The paper holds up well to almost anything you throw at it – whether it was a really wet Pilot Justus 95 with a Fine Medium nib filled with Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, or a Caran d’Ache Ecridor Retro with a Broad nib filled with Caran d’Ache Carribean Sea. There was no bleed through and feathering though the paper is not as thick as in some other notebooks.
A major plus for the Monokaki is that the paper does not crinkle as easily as 52gsm Tomoe River, which is renown for being as crinkly as baking sheet paper despite its many redeeming qualities. Dry time is also faster on Monokaki because the surface is not treated, while Tomoe River is.
Masuya’s Monokaki paper is however succeptible to show-through due to its thickness. There is obviously going to be a tradeoff if you get more pages than less with a higher weight. Another aspect in which Masuya could consider improving is the Monokaki notebook’s ability to lie flat – the notebook is thread bound and glued but its binding could have been a little looser.
Monokaki notebooks are available in Singapore from Straits Pen‘s online store and will retail for S$15 at a promotional sales event on 13th August at Tea Party Cafe in Amnios, Biopolis. Regular retail pricing will be S$24 (to be confirmed). Monokaki is also available in London from retailer Choosing Keeping and from Wabi Japan. For more details, please visit the Masuya official website here or read this extremely detailed review by Pete Denison.
Photos: Nicholas Yeo / Inky Passion