Midori Traveler’s Notebook, an invaluable tool from Japan

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/08/midori-travelers-notebook-i.html

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You know that outlet is like Brigadoon and only appears once every hundred years, right?

Soooo envious . . . :slight_smile:


So it’s a Filofax?

(The Filofax uses ring binders rather than string & elastic, but seems to be the same principle of an organiser with a wide range of inserts. They were trendy in the UK in the late 1980s, but very popular until the advent of PDAs & smartphones.)

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I bought a rip off of this a few years ago…and realized THIS IS A PIECE OF LEATHER WITH THREE HOLES PUNCHED IN IT.

So I made my own when I lost this one. Took 5 minutes. I can’t understand the cargo cult behind this. Then again…I buy Fieldnotes notebooks when I have a ton of identical ones I pick up from conferences that get discarded. So…


I have owned both the passport and larger Traveler’s Notebooks for nearly seven years now. I first saw them over 10 years ago in a department store in Hong Kong and never took them seriously. I was using moleskin notebooks at the time and didn’t see the point. But every time I visited Hong Kong (every other month or so) I saw them in the shop and all of the different inserts and I wondered if I was missing something…

When I finally took the plunge I felt guilty for spending so much money for two single pieces of leather that were made 400km from where I lived at the time in Thailand. In Hong Kong (as well as when I lived in Japan) they weren’t considered cheap but not unreasonably expensive. Back in Thailand I felt as if I had spent a small fortune. It was hard to justify.

Seven years later both notebooks are still my daily companions. I no longer buy Midori refills. There is a whole DIY cottage industry online that creates pdfs that can be printed and bound for a fraction of the cost. I now live in Phnom Penh and I have found a print shop who does this for me for about a US dollar a refill. I also buy student exercise books which are the same height as the Travelers inserts and chop them down to size.

I completely understand your pilgrimage. I suspect that ten years from now when you think back on your trip to Tokyo, as you write in your notebook, you will smile knowing that even though few people will ever understand, it was the right thing to do.


The beauty of Tokyo is that the really cool places are off an alley, off an alley, in a quiet residential part of town.


Must be nice to be able to afford such niceties, including the trip to Japan. Not criticizing the post but I just can’t really relate to this, it’s just a notebook.


“The beauty of Tokyo is that the really cool places are off an alley, off an alley, in a quiet residential part of town.”

Very true. I remember walking down a street in Kyoto with a friend who had lived there for thirty years. As we passed a small side street something caught his eye. There was a small neon sign on the second floor of a building that he’d never noticed before.

We went up the stairs to find a tiny little Jazz bar. We were both rabid BeBop fans and the owner was delighted to talk to us about Jazz for the next three hours. After a while my friend asked the owner how long the bar had been open. He said nine years.

That’s what Japan is like, boxes within boxes within boxes. You never know what you’ll find hidden no matter how long you live there.

And weirdly, ten years later I was living in Beijing and there was a sort of unofficial bar area near the embassy district that was all made up of ramshackle buildings down a dirt road which were technically illegal. There I found another little Jazz bar which had an enormous collection of LPs(many of which were from Japan) and the owner was just as crazy about BeBop as in the bar owner in Kyoto. After I’d been regular there for six months I mentioned the little bar in Kyoto and amazingly he knew the bar!


$200 worth of sctatch paper in a leather cover?
I have a Tiffany tin can with your name on it.


Either you were amazed that the store remained in one spot, or you found STATIONERY (not stationary.)


So it’s a Filofax?

Not a bad comparison. I used Filofaxes for nearly ten years in Hong Kong and when I moved to Japan in 1997 they were just as popular there as well. I took a business trip at the time to San Diego and everyone looked at me as if I was a weirdo. I’d lived in Asia too long, I had internalized part of culture there that is largely missing in the States. Many of the comments in this thread sound exactly like what I’d heard during my San Diego trip in 1999.

The pace of life in Hong Kong required people to manage a lot more information than people in San Diego at the time, so Hong Kong people tended to be heavy users of organizers like the Filofax. In Japan, things were a bit more relaxed, but the Japanese have a concept of quality that is largely missing in the States. Midori is a Filofax re-imagined as something that is simple, elegant and beautiful. I have given up expecting the vast majority of people in the States to grok this. And this thread has confirmed it.


I have no problem with what it is and it’s intended use, the cost however is not something that would make me ever consider using. If I was desperate I could make the exact same thing for a fraction of the cost. If you can afford this good for you


It would be lovely if the author could get off their humblebrag and state why this notebook is so invaluable, which was supposed to be the point of the article.

And, it looks like you can get it at Narita airport, by the way.


That’s honestly my favorite part of Tokyo. Keep looking, keeping thinking you’re never going to find it, wait is that it, no, down that alley, okay that door… wow. I’m here. And… wow.


Here’s a good source of more information about these notebooks if anyone is curious: https://www.jetpens.com/blog/travelers-notebook-a-comprehensive-guide/pt/726

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I declare you a nerd, and I don’t offer that title frivolously.


I wonder how much time, ¥¥¥, and stress could OP save if they followed the Pareto Principle and got 80% of what you want with 20% of the effort by “settling” for a moleskine?

One of the weirdest things to me in Tokyo was how multistory it is. This combined with how packed in it is and it’s like a maze.

Like, every building had escalators, and there’d be 5-6 businesses you could access at pretty much every storefront. So like, ground floor could be an electronics store, next up an anime depot, next up a burger king, next up a maid cafe:

Conversely in someplace like NYC, you either have one store on the ground level and the rest is offices/professional services (doctors etc). You wouldn’t see a 5 story building with 5 different businesses:

This is why pictures of Tokyo look so busy: you’ve got 5 businesses (look at the first photo closely and you can see the floor numbers).


My genuine Midori (which is fine, nothing special) cost me about £25 in a sale, from the UK. It also says ‘made in Thailand’ on the paper insert. Midori paper is pretty unspecial too, it feathers, bleeds, and the notebooks, because they are stapled and narrow, are hard to write in. I find the whole thing idiosyncratic and esoteric, but not a great experience as a stationery fiend.

It’s not for me to say, but this is definitely not how I would use a rare day off in Tokyo.


I guess that I would have been boring and bought it from Amazon. But if someone else was paying for the trip I can’t seen any harm in doing it the hard way. Some of the best times on my trips have resulted from wandering into the unknown and unknowable.

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