Tombow Mono Zero Eraser

I distinctly remember two instances of culture shock when I first set foot in stationery geekdom. The first one was at a pen forum, where I came across people discussing the properties of individual inks, how some flowed better than others and how you could therefore manipulate the thickness of the strokes your pen made by changing the ink. Up till that point ink was, for me, something you just put in a pen. The pen was then supposed to write. End of story.

Later on, when I ventured out into the larger world of general stationery, I discovered that there was such a thing as an eraser review. I mean, really! What was there to say about erasers? You can get them anywhere, they’re cheap, and they were either crappy or they worked. End of story, right? This seemed to be a whole new level of nerdiness to me at that time.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m now in possession of a few respectable erasers myself. Am positively discerning about them. I even know enough to recognize and get excited about a Tombow Mono Zero holder-type eraser spotted in the wild. And this is my first eraser review.

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The Mono One is so named because it can erase a single (Japanese) letter based on the parameters of a 6mm- or 7mm-ruled notebook. The Mono Zero is so named because it can erase less than a letter. The folks at Tombow say that “erasing, either at the office or at school, involves less than three letters more than 80% of the time”. Amazing, the kind of figures these eraser guys come up with.

The hyperslim Mono Zero (there are two kinds, a 2.3mm-diameter round one and a 2.5mm×5mm rectangular one; I bought the round one) is the kind of thing that would have struck me as somehow overdoing it in the past. I may have bought it, out of curiosity, but would have probably stowed it away in a drawer somewhere. But this pinpoint eraser is actually very useful! Since it took up residence in my pen pouch it has been an indispensable tool for my daily Hobonichi journaling, as it is gentle on the thin and easily stressed Tomoe River Paper. It also helps me address a daily problem:

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Exactly the kind of thing that needs the Mono Zero treatment.

As other reviews point out, the eraser itself is made of a slightly different material (elastomer, whatever that is) and so does not erase well compared to a block eraser, but does precision erasing well enough. On the package it says it “even changes the nuances of a dot”, and I agree! It not only erases wayward strokes but can make lines appear lighter and thinner without erasing them completely. A welcome tool for anyone who hates having to rewrite anything…

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There are excellent reviews of this eraser at Bleistift and Dave’s Mechanical Pencils. It is also one of the “Top Two” erasers chosen by Lexikaliker.

A New Planner

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A new planner is exciting for so many reasons. A whole year, as yet unsullied, no mistakes, regrets or embarrassments – at least not yet. Who knows what the future will bring? We are up for a transfer next year, but we do not yet know where we will be going next. Holland was a strong candidate until recently, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we are back to square one. I wonder just where I’ll be writing in this journal next, if not from a canalside café ;)

I did end up getting a leather cover for my Hobonichi, one of the simplest I could find. It’s from Midori and designed to fit their own slightly slimmer MD notebooks, so the fit is a bit tight. I had to press it down with a big book for a couple of weeks (my son’s French dictionary helped). Midori says you have to tan it in sunlight for 2-3 weeks before using it in order to let the leather develop a sort of patina that will protect it against water and dirt (the leather is sold completely untreated “so that the user can enjoy the mellowing of the leather himself/herself to the utmost”), so I was doing that with precious little to show for it, but then I learned that the tanning was a much, much longer, gradual process, so I’m just using it as is. The leather is a warm peachy beige and wonderfully soft to the touch. I wish it could stay like this forever!

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A Half Year With the Hobonichi

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I am fundamentally a weekly kind of person. I’ve used the same one-week-per-spread format across many brands (the Japanese brand T’Beau, Paperblanks, museum planners, Moleskine weekly twin sets in pocket and regular sizes and special editions) consistently for the past twenty years. So my biggest worry upon taking the plunge into a Hobonichi was whether I could keep up with the daily format. I wanted to record more diary-style information than previously, but I also had a history of abandoning daily journals a few days into the new year.

Six months on, I have to say that the Hobonichi venture has been an unqualified success, because I have filled up nearly every page till now and am still going strong. And getting antsy for news of next year’s planner, too, because this time I’m going to get the larger Cousin AND the regular planner, both! This planner has made me sit down, not every day, but at regular enough intervals, to write down the particulars of my days.

I like the pull of the special paper, and I also like the fact that the grid-lined space invites me to use it freely for non-journalling purposes. My Hobonichi is becoming not exactly a diary but a snapshot of random bits of information on a variety of interests scattered over certain periods of time. I can’t draw so I haven’t attempted much by way of illustration; what I rather do is record factual information on topics of current interest, calling up my arsenal of colored ink and colored pencils. Early in the year I drew constellations after reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. A couple of months later I read a succession of books on Africa, which made me realize that my geographical knowledge of the continent was sorely lacking, so I drew maps. Maybe information drawn by hand is indeed better absorbed, the way experts argue that drawing letters help develop children’s brains. I certainly hope so. I also write down stationery wish lists and bits of information on pens and pencils that I want to save from emails on spare pages. I don’t paste things onto it much because I don’t want it to get too bulky; also, I’ve found out that masking tape tends to curl the paper, probably because it’s so thin.

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(Last year’s MT Mizumaru Anzai special edition, the illustrator who was Haruki Murakami’s longtime collaborator.)

That said, the one issue I have with the Hobonichi is covers. The standard one I have is too ugly and unwieldy, and the nicer ones are just too expensive. In any case I feel that covers somehow detract from the simple beauty of the planner itself. I may just go coverless next year.

Busy busy busy…

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It’s strange how small things creep up on you and before you know it, they’re claiming big chunks of your time.  (I’ve recently started Instagramming but on a subject other than pencils and stationery.)   The number of sites to check up on rises by the day!

It’s interesting, though, how a set of icons can represent a snapshot of your life at a certain moment.   Social-media services come and go; websites and providers rise and fall.  But paper lasts.  And your own handwriting lasts.  I bet my Hobonichi diary will outlast some of the icons up there.

The Art of Packaging

Yesterday I received perhaps the most tastefully packaged online order ever.

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It’s almost seven years since I left Japan, and I had forgotten that this kind of art was still possible. No scuffed brown cardboard, no Scotch tape, no bubble wrap, but everything still pristine and crease-free. It almost feels as if you picked it up yourself in a shop.

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These are color pencils designed to fit within the covers of the Hobonichi Techo. Death by cuteness!

Tomoe River Paper

After I ordered the 2015 Hobonichi Planner (good intro here at Lexikaliker) from their web shop, I became curious as to what kind of company makes this notoriously hard-to-find paper. From its name, I had this bucolic image of people working bamboo screens knee-deep in the Tomoe river somewhere, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Tomoegawa Co., Ltd. is headquartered in Kyobashi (upstreet from Ginza), and is a modern company specializing in such things as “Electronics Parts, Display Parts, Fine Particles, Highly Functional Sheet, Speciality Paper”, according to their company profile. It started out making electrical insulating paper and electrolytic recording paper (help!! such jargon!!) but since then has moved on to the manufacture of electronic parts. So first of all Tomoe River paper is actually a very high-tech product, probably born out of their expertise in treating and coating paper for various special needs. It also means that papermaking is (probably) only a small part of their business right now. Most of the paper they do produce seem to be made in bulk and supplied to other businesses rather than to individual consumers. And as for the paper’s fountain-pen-friendly qualities, that may just be a happy by-product of developing lightweight copier paper on which toner ink won’t bleed.

What I mean to say is that the people at Tomoegawa seem to be fundamentally different from the sort of people running, say, Midori paper. They are engineers, not designers. So I think we may have to wait awhile before we get the kind of alternate rulings and notebooks we want from this company (as Penventory points out). It would be great if they would enter into a partnership with a reputable design firm and start producing a comprehensive line of notebooks and journals.

And in the meanwhile, I can’t wait for my Techo to arrive!