“Ippitsu-sen (一筆箋)” refers to a Japanese type of letter-writing pad of a specific size, of around 18 cm by 8 cm, often with guidelines to facilitate vertical or horizontal writing. I picked some up a long time ago, without even realizing what it was, and it was only recently that I learned it had a name and a specific function. I think the name means “one-line paper,” as when we say, “Drop me a line.” It probably corresponds to the Western greeting card (especially those smaller, unadorned ones that use thinner paper), but this is lighter, more ethereal, somehow less formal. This straddles the delicate middle ground between a card and a full-sized letter writing sheet.

Ippitsu-sen is meant for short messages, usually accompanying a gift, small souvenirs, business papers or samples, or things being returned to the original owner. You know, for those occasions when it’s just more polite to attach a note. The stationery firm Midori has a tutorial page on how to write ippitsu-sen, and it turns out that there is actually very little space to write down anything personal, because opening greetings take up one line, closing greetings another(“I hope for your favorable consideration,” etc.), and that’s already two lines out of a possible three or four – which probably comes as a relief for people who have to write them. So while the format seems casual (I don’t think it even needs an envelope), the content can be pretty formulaic.

Anyway, the one below is my favorite, because the loose square guidelines mean it can be used either vertically or horizontally. I was amused to find that Tsuchihashi-san had the same notepad in his article introducing ippitsu-sen for men (read non-flowery).

The square grid is also evocative of manuscript pads used by writers and journalists in both Japan and Korea (I’m curious whether the Chinese use them too). One square holds one letter, punctuation mark, or space. It’s been quite some time since the process was digitized and people started writing on computers and word processors, but industry people still refer to the length of an article by the number of 200-letter manuscript sheets it takes up (“word count” being a very Western concept).

This is another ippitsu-sen sized pad from Pilot. However, I was told (and I agree) that the paper is not particularly fountain pen friendly ;)

And this would be the stereotypical ippitsu-sen, with flowery illustrations and vertical lines. I think my mother bought this. It seems like the vast majority of ippitsu-sen users are women, and it can be hard to find something neutral and muted. I’m definitely going to add more to my collection if I have the chance.


11 thoughts on “Ippitsu-sen

  1. Thanks for teaching us about these ‘treasures’. I have seen similar looking paper for practising writing, but not for message writing.
    In the second picture, is the ‘incompleteness’ of the grids on purpose? Is there a meaning to the pattern?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s a design element, it’s supposed to be like that :) I guess it might look a little strange to people used to Rhodia-style grids? I can’t think of any obvious reference, although you could argue it evokes the wooden doorframes that are papered over. It just looks nice :)


  2. 오^^ 一筆箋이라고 부르는 거였군요. 불과 며칠 전에 두성종이에서 하는 편집샵인 ‘에이셔너리’에 가서 많이 보았습니다. 라이프에서 나온 B5 사이즈 원고지 노트도 사오고요^^


    1. 그런 문구 편집샵이 꾸준히 생기는 추세인가 봐요. 고무적이군요! 저도 나중에 가봐야겠어요^^ 원고용지는 도통 쓸 일이 없지만 보면 사고 싶을 것 같은데요?^^


  3. 아… 그리고 요즘은 어떤지 모르겠지만 근대 중국인들도 원고지를 사용했습니다. 상하이에 있는 루쉰 기념관에 가면 육필 원고를 볼 수 있다고 합니다.


  4. 간단하게 메모하기 좋아서 이 형식의 패드를 많이 샀었는데 쓰는 법까지 있었다니 제가 무지했습니다. ^^ 어떻게 쓰는건지 언제 천천히 읽어봐야겠습니다.


    1. 진짜 메모지처럼 생기긴 했죠^^ 근데 메모지라 하기엔 좀 석연치 않은 구석이 있어서 저도 오랫동안 궁금했었답니다. 이것도 기회가 되면 더 많이 사모으고 싶어요!^^


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