A representative of the Kunisawa Stationery Company reached out to me a couple months ago and offered to send me some of their recently released notebooks to review - I didn’t realize that it would basically be a crate! I have three of each of their various products, and as I work my way through the different sizes and rulings, I’ll post my thoughts on the notebooks and pads. First up are the “Find Note Hard” and “Find Note Smart” - the first is a fairly standard A5 notebook, and the second is a tall and slim hardback pocket notebook, which is easily my favorite of the two. But first some information on the company itself.
Background on the Kunisawa Stationery Company
Prior to receiving these notebooks, I’d never heard of Kunisawa Stationery. Per their website, it’s a new venture launched in 2017 by Kawachiya, an older, established Japanese paper manufacturer. Kunisawa is to be marketed as a “prestigious stationery brand for business performers,” and they’ve clearly focused on making a clean, fairly minimal notebook that doesn’t look out of place in an office or a boardroom. For their logo, Kunisawa has chosen a three-legged crow, based on a mythical Japanese figure “Yaragatsu.”
With the heavy focus on business users in the marketing copy, one could be forgiven for thinking this is a “Japanese Moleskine,” but it’s not. The paper and overall quality are much better, and serious effort clearly went into designing an attractive notebook, from the covers to the binding to the copper gilt edging on the paper.
So What About the Paper?
After having used both of these Kunisawa notebooks at work for the better part of a month, here’s my verdict: the paper on the larger A5 notebook is ok, and the paper in the “Find Note Smart” pocket notebook is exceptional. Others reviewing the same Kunisawa notebooks have not had any success at all with fountain pens, so I suspect there may be batch variations in the paper, much like what happened with the recently released “Elements” Notebooks. (See Susan’s review of the A5 and Jeff’s review of the Smart Note over at the Pen Addict.) Their disappointment is not unreasonable - the company expressly advertises the A5 Find Note Hard as “an ideas notebook specifically designed for fountain pens and carefully considered writing.” While the paper in my A5 isn’t terrible at all - I actually found it similar to the paper in Leuchtturm notebooks and the Studio Neat Panobook - it’s still not ideal for fountain pens. There is feathering and bleed through with wetter fountain pens and rollerballs, though I found that the paper performs much better with finer nibs and a light hand. The paper is far superior to Moleskine for fountain pen use, and I suspect most, if not all, typical business users wouldn’t notice any issues and would love the paper in this notebook.
Kunisawa describes the paper used in the “Find” notebooks as “Foolscap,” which they characterize as “created specifically for writing,” and “extraordinarily high quality.” While it’s good paper, I had always understood “foolscap” - at least the way it’s used in literature - to be a size, not a type of paper (which was confirmed by my Oxford English Dictionary), generally used by students, clerks, and attorneys for drafting. Perhaps something got lost in translation….
On the other hand, the paper in the Find Smart Note held up to any fountain pen I could throw at it without any hint of feathering or bleedthrough. I also love the format: 40 double-sided pages with gild edging, hardbound in a slim format that’s easy to carry in a coat pocket and use while standing up. The dimensions are slightly shorter and wider than the new Field Notes “End Papers” notebooks. I wish notebooks like this were easily available, and I can see myself using these up fairly quickly, provided the paper quality is consistent.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Kunisawa notebooks are not yet widely available here in the U.S., so the easiest way to purchase is probably to buy directly from the company itself via their webstore. (Overseas orders must be placed by e-mail, with contact details on the site.) The A5 Find Note Hard retails for approximately $26, and the Find Smart Note for just under $9, subject to exchange rate fluctuations. These notebooks are not inexpensive, but they’re also within what I’d consider to be the “range of reasonableness,” to borrow some lawyer-speak.
If you’re a pocket notebook aficionado, and the idea of a hardback pocket notebook you can slip into a jacket or suit pocket appeals to you, definitely check out the Find Smart Note. I was less enamored of the Find Note hardback A5 - I expected more from the paper, given the description - but if you like the look it’s certainly not a bad notebook. I look forward to testing out the rest of the notebooks and pads sent to me to see if there are additional variations in paper quality among the Kunisawa line. Stay tuned for more testing!
Disclaimer: Kunisawa sent me the notebooks featured in this review free of charge, for review purposes. Many thanks to Kunisawa for making this review possible!