With a strong stationery culture and a love for simple, graceful design, there's so much to discover in our range of Japanese gear, from notebooks, pens and washi tape to homewares, markers and cult-favourite diaries. We've selected a few of our favourites to help you find the perfect gift for that special person in your life.
Alongside French makers like Clairefontaine, Japan has one of the world's strongest traditions when it comes to making paper. Generally speaking, Japanese paper has a distinctive feel compared to the stuff that comes out of Europe, making it a great option for spoiling a stationery lover.
Midori has been making paper since the 1950s, and has built a cult reputation around the world for its creamy, soft paper. Made using hardwood pulp and filtered river water, the brand's MD Paper faces strict quality checks at every step of production to maintain its warm colour and smooth finish. The paper is then bound using an exposed cheesecloth mesh that perfectly fits the understated style of the beloved MD Notebook.
The exposed spine of the MD Notebook only adds to its minimalist charm
For another take on Midori's magnificent paper, look to the back-alleys of Nakameguro, where the adventurous Traveler's Notebook employs those cream-coloured sheets in a charming combination of old-world romance and modern versatility.
Inside the rustic leather cover, the simple rubber band lets you mix-and-match your notebook to be the perfect travel companion, from diary pages and notebook pages in any layout you could want to sticky notes and handy zip pockets to keep your adventure essentials close to hand. The rough-cut leather develops a unique finish as it travels at your side, telling the story of your expeditions as much as the anecdotes and journal entries inside. Perfect for a travel-obsessed loved one or a would-be Indiana Jones, the Traveler's Notebook is a gift to be treasured for a lifetime.
The Traveler's Notebook is made for adventure
Founded at around the same time as Midori, Tokyo's Life Stationery is a rare treasure that's hard to find outside Japan. The small team behind the brand has hand-made every one of their notebooks since 1946, and that human quality is palpable in everything they do. With some of the smoothest sheets your fountain pen has ever come across, Life Stationery can be a life-changing experience.
There's an intimacy to Life Stationery's notebooks that makes them quite unique
Practically a household name by comparison, Delfonics has been a landmark in Tokyo's bustling Shibuya ward for more than 20 years. The brand's simple, colourful style balances the refined approach to design that's made Delfonics' notebooks and diaries some of the best-loved in the world. Stationery lovers everywhere adore the sturdy spiral binding and creamy pages of the iconic Rollbahn notebooks, and the brand brings its signature style to a gorgeous range of pens, carry bags and pencil cases that are equal parts fun and functional.
Delfonics' Rollbahn notebooks are stripped-down stationery magic
And that's still just scratching the surface of the joys Japanese notebooks have to offer – we haven't even touched on the understated professionalism of Kunisawa's gorgeous range, or the paper perfection that is Tomoe River (found in some of the world's best notebooks and diaries). Whatever form it takes, Japanese paper offers something special for the notebook fiend in your life, opening up a whole new approach to paper that is bound to rekindle their love for stationery.
First introduced to Japan as the country expanded its global trade in the late 19th century, the island nation's long calligraphic tradition heavily influences their approach to fountain pens, offering a very different experience to their European counterparts. Pen lovers know that Japanese nibs tend to be finer, with a sharper, more tactile feel that can be a game-changer.
Pilot recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, charting a course from the very beginning of the Japanese fountain pen industry and still making some of the finest pens around to this day. From the wonderfully-accessible Kakuno to the exquisite Custom 823, each Pilot pen is a testament to that long-standing tradition, with the craft and sophistication you'd expect from a heritage brand.
The Kakuno is a wonderfully simple starter fountain pen
Renowned for developing the world's first rollerball pen, OHTO take a different but complementary approach to Pilot, focusing on ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils that sport incredibly fine, precise tips that somehow still feel incredibly smooth and elegant.
OHTO's pens are known for their precision and grace
Along with the distinct tradition of fountain pen design, Japanese inks are also quite different to European-made inks, with a less viscous texture that helps them flow neatly through the finer Japanese nibs. Taken from the Japanese words for 'colour' ('iro', 色) and 'droplet' ('shizuku', 滴), Pilot's Iroshizuku Ink is the perfect companion for the brand's pens, offering dazzling colour with depth and vitality.
Treating someone special with a full set of Japanese writing gear, from pen to ink to paper, would make a marvellous gift to mark an important occasion.
Pilot's premium Iroshizuku ink is some of the world's finest
With a rich traditions in art and calligraphy that stretch back centuries, it's no surprise that Japanese markers are among the world's finest. Sakura's Pigma Micron fineliner pens were originally created with practical purposes like archiving and record-keeping, but the incredible precision and reliability of these magnificent markers earned them a huge fan base among artists, manga creators, bullet journalers and margin-doodlers everywhere.
Pigma Micron fineliners are great for just about everyone
Tombow is a kindred spirit to Sakura, making a range of elegant art tools that creative types the world over simply adore. The iconic Dual Brush Pen is a bullet journaling staple, adding movement and vitality to planner pages by making it easy to create fun lettering in a range of colours. The ability to switch between the brush and fine tips at either end of the pen also make it an essential for analogue artists of all stripes, delivering precision or sweeping lines with equal grace.
The Dual Brush Pen's Fine and Brush tips make it an ultra-versatile tool
An easy way to add even more colour and playfulness, every desk should have a few rolls of MT Masking Tape's fun, vibrant range of washi tapes. Taking the practical possibilities of classic beige masking tape and reinventing it in a dazzling array of hues, shades and styles, MT's range offers endless possibilities for use in notebooks, journals, cards, letters, gifts, photo albums, arts and crafts projects and basically anything else you can imagine. Made from a strong, lightweight washi paper, MT's range of tapes stick to most surfaces, and can be written on to create charming, unique gift tags, labels, and all sorts of other delights. With all sorts of shades, and patterns ranging from floral to funky, MT Masking Tape is a gift that's full of creative possibilities.
Even if your loved one isn't as stationery-obsessed as we are, there are so many other wonderful aspects of Japanese culture to explore and to learn from.
With historical references dating back as far as the 8th century, Japan's relationship with tea is deep and complex. A part of religious life as well as part of everyday social life (in the form of tea ceremonies) dating back centuries, the preparation and presentation of tea is an art form of its own, and Kinto honours that tradition with a range of considered, beautiful teaware. The gorgeous Leaves To Tea Teapot echoes that tradition, made from porcelain with a stunning glaze in a design inspired by centuries-old Japanese teapots.
The Leaves To Tea Teapot has an air of ceremonial calm
Reassuringly solid, the Leaves To Tea Teapot feels beautiful in the hand, with a reverent, almost ceremonial quality that will add a new dimension to an afternoon cuppa. Inside, the stainless steel strainer ensures clean, balanced tea without imparting any flavour or aftertaste. Paired with the matching Cup & Saucer, a soothing afternoon sencha has never been so pleasant.
That same considered design applies to the brand's Aqua Culture Vase, which draws on a Japanese approach to flower-arranging called ikebana (生け花, "making flowers alive") to offer a distinctive decor feature that will add a stunning natural warmth to any space. Sporting soft organic curves, the Aqua Culture Vase's defining feature is a glass plate that rests on top, supporting a bulb or succulent so you can see its roots growing down into the water below as well as seeing the plant from above.
Still striking when used as a conventional vase, it's this little detail that gives the Aqua Culture a touch of natural magic, making it a wonderful gift that will bring joy for years.
This is only a small sample of our Japanese treasures, so if you like the philosophies and principles on show but still haven't found the exact gift you're looking for, why not take a look at our full collection of Japanese favourites? With everything from coffee-makers to incense to elegant hourglasses, you're bound to find the perfect present.