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Midori Traveler's Notebook


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#1 cubic archon

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 22:17

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I have recently received a Midori Traveler's Notebook, ordered from TheJournalShop - http://www.thejourna...s_Notebook.html

What is this thing?

The Midori is halfway between a standard journal and a "system" such as Filofax. It's really a very simple "system". The basic part of it is a leather cover, with some elastic to hold refills into it with, and some more elastic to hold the journal closed. There are two pieces of refill elastic, so each book can hold at least two refills, in fact more if you care to fiddle about, though that would probably make it too fat. Two refills should be enough for anyone.

As well as the basic journal cover, there are a number of different refills available for it - it comes with a basic plain paper one, but there are squared books, lined books, sketch paper, extra-thin paper, calendars, zip pockets and others. In addition it would be quite simple to manufacture your own custom refills, since they are very simple in structure and don't need, for instance, any sort of special punch.

The pages are A5 in height but less than that in width - the dimensions are 110x210mm, as opposed to A5 which is 148x210mm or thereabouts. The leather cover is thick and durable but not stiff.

First impressions

The thing is packaged very nicely, in a card box sealed with elastic, which is useful afterwards to store refills in (plus points there). I confess that when I unwrapped it and took it out, after the first sniff of the leather had worn off, I thought "is this it? Have I really just spent £30 on what's basically a bit of flappy leather with some elastic? Have I really gone off the deep end here?"

It didn't take very long for me to change my mind though.

Paper and writing experience

Firstly, the paper in the refills - and by now I have plain, lined, squared and extra-thin (more on the latter in a bit) - is excellent. It doesn't have the slick surface of Clairefontaine or Black n Red paper, but takes any fountain pen ink superbly - not a hint of feathering or bleed to the other side of the paper. I did manage to get some feathering by using an overloaded dip pen, but that isn't all that surprising. Ink dries very quickly on it as well. It's an absolute pleasure to write on. This won't matter to people who use ballpoints or pencils or whatever anyway, but for the fountain pen user, paper quality is vital.

The pages are narrower than A5 but that doesn't really matter to me for journalling purposes. Journal entries as far as I'm concerned are more lists of events than anything else. Often I put them as bullet points.

The Midori doesn't lie very flat, since the refills are just 32-page stapled books. I thought that this would bother me more than it ended up doing in practice. It also, as I mentioned earlier, doesn't have a hard cover, which makes it harder to use as a handheld journal or on one's knee.

The refills are held surprisingly firmly inside the book with the elastic - they don't wobble about much at all. One thing that continues to irritate me, I'm afraid, is the knot in the back cover for the loop of elastic that holds the book closed. This presses through onto the right hand side of the paper and raises it noticeably.

Ultra-thin paper

The normal refills only have 32 pages (64 sides) which is a little less than I would like; a standard Rhodia Webnotebook has 192 sides for instance, so even having two paper refills only gives 2/3 of the capacity. An ultra-thin paper refill is available which has double the number of pages in it.

I was initially sceptical of the usability of this paper, but like the other refills there is no feathering or bleed here either. The paper is thin enough that writing can be seen through the other side, but it is still entirely usable.

Overall impressions

A journal is a very personal item, and so evaluating it will depend on many different factors in combination. Even if a book should theoretically be perfect, some tiny detail can ruin it; similarly, if it shouldn't work at all, sometimes it does.

The Midori, for me, is in the latter category. I generally hate soft-cover journals which don't lie flat, but here... I find myself being happy to seek out flat surfaces or rest it on something hard, and I don't mind holding it open a bit with my left hand. It already feels like something I will still have and be using in fifty years' time. The double-refill aspect is handy, yes - I could have writing paper and sketch paper, or have a refill for working on short stories - but in something with a different feel that wouldn't make up for other shortcomings.

In fact I am a bit puzzled as to why I like the Midori so much. It has a good weight - not heavy but feels meaningful - and it smells and feels comforting and personal, but that isn't normally enough. In the end I will not try to analyse it too far and instead say "I really like writing in this and anticipate continuing to do so for a significant length of time". I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in the future, though.

(also posted on my blog)

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#2 jimhughes

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 00:56

I had the same issue with not being able to jot a note down holding the Midori in my hand, on the fly so to speak. After toughing that out for about 6-9 mos I stumbled on a solution. thewellshavedgentleman , aka Heir photo on FPN is making a razor strop leather Latigo Cover which will accept Midori refills. I was an early adaptor to this and it's working great for me. I posted a review on this about a month back or so. That enhanced my use alot. Now no searching for a flat surface to write on.
By the by, did you ever find a solution for your dot pad search? Ones you can find in the UK at a reasonable price? Jim

#3 watch_art

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 01:59

I would cut out that loop that goes through the back cover. That would irritate me to no end.

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#4 cubic archon

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 15:27

I had the same issue with not being able to jot a note down holding the Midori in my hand, on the fly so to speak. After toughing that out for about 6-9 mos I stumbled on a solution. thewellshavedgentleman , aka Heir photo on FPN is making a razor strop leather Latigo Cover which will accept Midori refills. I was an early adaptor to this and it's working great for me. I posted a review on this about a month back or so. That enhanced my use alot. Now no searching for a flat surface to write on.
By the by, did you ever find a solution for your dot pad search? Ones you can find in the UK at a reasonable price? Jim

What is Latigo - a stiff type of leather?

I never did find any dot pads in the UK to be honest; I pretty much gave up on that and got use to plain paper. Odd because there are places which sell almost all Rhodia lines.

#5 cubic archon

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 15:28

I would cut out that loop that goes through the back cover. That would irritate me to no end.

It seems to be getting a bit flattened into the leather as I carry on, which is good. The thing not lying flat is my major irritation right now. If anything turns me off using it, it will most likely be that.

#6 watch_art

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 20:54

Could you take the insert out and fold it backwards a few times? Kind of 'break' the fold?

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#7 cubic archon

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 21:18

Hm. The thing is that when it's closed, it would bend back... also, even if it did work, say you are writing on the right hand side in the second half of the refill - the page on the left side would then have the tendency to bend back over, if you see what I mean, which would also be irritating.

I have had some success with a paperclip holding the pages down to the cover. That seems like a bit much long-term.

#8 Heirphoto

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 21:34

What is Latigo - a stiff type of leather?



Latigo is basically a steerhide that is impregnated with oils and waxes. This makes it somewhat water repellant and gives it a rich looking, yet rustic finish. It will pick up scars with use that to me enhances the look. I use this on my covers. While similar to the Midori design I did away with the cord on the outer spine and added two additional cords inside so multiple inserts could be used, and not just a specialized size from a single source. I also moved the fastening point for the keeper away from the back cover so you have a flat right side page to write on without the knot making a bump there.

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#9 Pjake

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 00:31

I will be buying one of these very soon. I tend to think there is a bit a philosophical mindset at work. Go rustic, simple, and durable in leather type products, and your going to work it for a while until the piece becomes "broken in" or tailored to your style of use.

I bought a Saddleback wallet about two months ago and will spend the next 8-10 months breaking it in. It's a bit bulky and rustic. The leather marks easily....but that's fine...next year I'll have a unique wallet that will last me the next 30-40 years (should I make it that far). I have several wallets from "refined" top tier manufacturers that frankly have not held up...we're talking 4-5 years....cloth lining to leather that has ripped/frayed....

To a degree it's a matter of style. I'm no longer wearing $1000 suits and $125 ties, so I kind of like the Jeans/leather/t-shirt/flannel lifestyle.

I think the Midori Notebook is just what the doctor ordered.....I certainly will be.

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#10 ingenbay

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 06:34

I agree, I never like refill journals or leather usually, and have no reason as to why I love the Midori so much....something about it just works. Whenever I look at it or pick it up, it is like something new has happened to it, like it adapts to me and my writing / life style.

I would say that it is probably not for everyone, but then again I did not think a soft, leather, oddly shaped, refillable journal would be for me until I tried it for about a week!
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#11 Bug Guy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 03:41

If you want a Midori style cover for a moleskine cahier, you should try this cover from zenokleather on Etsy:

http://www.etsy.com/...iers-note-cover

I have been using this cover for about a month. It solves the greatest problem I have with Midoori, the difficulty to find the refills and the price of those refills.

#12 ingenbay

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 04:08

If you want a Midori style cover for a moleskine cahier, you should try this cover from zenokleather on Etsy:

http://www.etsy.com/...iers-note-cover

I have been using this cover for about a month. It solves the greatest problem I have with Midoori, the difficulty to find the refills and the price of those refills.


Oh that does look very nice, I would be tempted were it not the same cost that I just paid for the midori. I will have to think about it. I do like the fact that you can find the refills anywhere. However I do not really like moleskine, the paper cannot compare to the Midori refills (I was about to say IMO, but that seemed dumb, it is I speaking, clearly the opinion is mine lol).

I do also wonder about the leather, it looks "finished", I question if it would age and show wear like the leather on the midori.
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#13 PatrikKarlsson

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 20:29

I liked your review cubic it helped me in my search for journals.

I just got my Midori travel journal today, I ordered it from Nordic Pen Imports here in Sweden. For me this journal i perfect, it´s simple nice looking and it feels so nice to hold and use. I put the calender and the card holders into it in addition to the fill that came with it. The three fills is not to much for me, it makes it feel better. Best buy I did in a long time.
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#14 cubic archon

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 20:37

Thank you, I'm glad it was useful!

#15 trent

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 20:30

This is a great notebook with excellent paper, but the tall shape and narrowness of it did not work for me.

#16 garnet

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 15:33

I had the same issue with not being able to jot a note down holding the Midori in my hand, on the fly so to speak. After toughing that out for about 6-9 mos I stumbled on a solution. thewellshavedgentleman , aka Heir photo on FPN is making a razor strop leather Latigo Cover which will accept Midori refills. I was an early adaptor to this and it's working great for me. I posted a review on this about a month back or so. That enhanced my use alot. Now no searching for a flat surface to write on.
By the by, did you ever find a solution for your dot pad search? Ones you can find in the UK at a reasonable price? Jim

I thought the same. But on receiving my Traveller I found it wasn't a problem. If it was you could always turn the folder the other way around and have the knot at the front. No problem.
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#17 watch_art

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 16:07

I thought the same. But on receiving my Traveller I found it wasn't a problem. If it was you could always turn the folder the other way around and have the knot at the front. No problem.


oh duh! that's GENIUS! :thumbup:

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#18 cubic archon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 22:01

I remembered starting this thread, and I thought I'd post an update, but then it started to get rather long and I turned it into a blog post. Here it is, though....

After a while - in fact, on the 18th of October 2010, since I date my journal entries - the Traveler's Notebook

1. not lying flat
2. having the knot at the back
3. having the metal lump at the top
4. not having a hard cover

were just a constant annoyance to me. I was looking around at other journals and eventually, after filling five refills (enough for one of their binders) I bought a small Habana notebook and started to use that.

Stopping using the Traveler's Notebook was quite easily **the most emotionally traumatic stationery-related experience that I have ever had**. I felt guilty, like I'd betrayed a trust, like I was mistreating a loving and blameless pet. Like in _Breakfast At Tiffany's_ where she throws the cat out. I had to hide it behind things on the shelf to stop it looking at me with its wide notebook eyes, not quite understanding why it wasn't being used but still sure that it loved me and I still loved it and soon we would be having happy notebook fun just like before.

Apart from the supremely tactile experience of just picking the thing up, and the way that it gradually molds itself to your hands and habits, the Notebook balances being **refillable** with being **simple enough to feel like an intrinsic part of your writing**.

Let's start with the **refillability**: there's a continuity of the physical aspect of your notebook, no matter how long you write in it. In fact, the dual refill structure is quite cunning - I found that I would finish refill #1, have another one behind it, start refill #2 feeling as if it was just a simple continuation of the previous one, then, after a little while, remove refill #1 and put blank refill #3 behind #2. In other words, you're writing in a notebook with _endless pages_. I write an awful lot - observations, self-indulgent diarising, work plans, ideas for characters and games and widgets and plots, a _lot_ of testing of pens and inks - and an average A5 notebook lasts me about a month if I am lucky - this is not enough time to really become attached to one, even something otherwise quite characterful (e.g. the Paperchase Noto which I should write about that at some point). I'm afraid that as good as Webnotebooks are they're really not individually lovable.

Then there's the **simplicity** and, er, **intrinsicality**. A ring binder or a Filofax is refillable, after all, and I could technically carry an A5 ring binder around and top it up with blank paper, but folders just never to me feel like they are all that connected with what they contain. They're storage mechanisms rather than things to write in. As for Filofaxes, I admit that I've never used one so I might be underestimating their level of personal character, but they've always seemed like rather fiddly devices, with metal clips and thick covers and _teeny tiny refills on thin paper half the size of the cover_. The Traveler's Notebook is so simple in itself that when you put a refill in it, the paper feels as if it has _grown_ there. The word "refill" itself seems inappropriate. (Midori also encourage you to add things to the structure of your notebook and its contents, pen loops and pockets and such, just to tie you cruelly to their product line.)

It doesn't hurt, incidentally, that the plain refills use the best paper that I've ever written on. I cannot think of a single aspect of it that I don't like - it's gorgeous. I prefer it even to Rhodia paper, which is saying something.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I've gone back to using the Traveler's Notebook regularly. I find that the leather has softened and become molded to a degree that means the knot is less bothersome, and the soft cover is not bothering me nearly as much as it used to. Also, _it loves me_. If only I could now ignore the looks coming from my OHTO Tasches.

#19 hedera

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 22:08

Cubic Archon,
I know exactly how you feel!

I used my Midori for several months, having this wonderful, serene feeling that I finally found The Notebook.

But at the moment, I am using something else... :embarrassed_smile:

What might help both with making the cover feel sturdier, and with not feeling the knot at all, is having one of those plastic inserts with either the zipper pocket (and two slide pockets at the other side) or the one with the credit card slots behind your notebook inserts: I have one in mine, and I absolutely cannot feel the knot at all.

(by zipper pocket I mean this one:
http://www.thejourna...s_Notebook.html
and by credit card pocket this one:
http://www.thejourna...s_Notebook.html)

(no affilitation with the Journal Shop, other than being a very happy customer)

#20 cubic archon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 23:06

I use The Journal Shop all the time - they have a great selection of all sorts of Midori products (though they are running low on Traveller's Notebook stuff at the moment, probably they haven't gotten new stock since Christmas yet).

I'd thought of using an insert to stiffen the back, or make my own with some thick card... I do like having two paper refills in it, though. With other journals I hate not being able to look back without carrying two books, but with two refills I can always look back at my entries from a couple of weeks ago, as well as have plenty of spare paper.

Since I picked the Traveller's up again I find that I barely notice the knot anyway. Maybe by now it's been pressed into the leather so much, or maybe I was just being picky in the first place.






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