A year of travel with my regular brown MTN (Midori Traveler’s Notebook) has gone by and I could not resist an urge to get another, this time perhaps a more portable one. Not the ultra portable (thumb drive kind) 10th Anniversary Notebook Mini (below), which stupendously completes itself within a span of 5 centimetres. This one had to be a passport, possibly with the recent branding of Traveler’s Company, Japan.
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You can find a review of the regular sized MTN here. Or should I say TN!
Midori as many of you know is in fact is a 66-year old Japanese company specializing in paper products and creative design stationery. You may also bump into MD Paper, while searching for quality paper products across the Asian market. If you are not very familiar with the Traveler’s company brand, I can rest assure you that it is a rather recent development of 2016. The traveler’s notebooks which were marketed earlier under Midori brand of products, have been rebranded under Traveler’s Company, Japan. Additionally this Traveler’s Company is hosting a few other older product lines including spiral notebooks, kraft paper envelopes & the usual brass stationeries. The core part of the notebook i.e the paper is manufactured in Japan whereas the leather cover is finished by hand in the old city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Traveler’s Notebook comes in two different sizes – Passport & Regular. Though it used to come across two standard colour variants i.e black & brown, there is a third Camel colour available now, which was released as limited runs before. Also a few other limited colour runs (say: Blue) are released by Midori from time to time.
DESIGN & PERFORMANCE (6/6)
Multi-tier packaging. Not expensive, but Differentiated! A polyethylene plastic wrap, diaphanously enclosing a package wrapped in traditional brown paper, increases the excitement of unwrapping a gift. And you can also use the brown paper for a bit of nib smoothing! A note on the front of the package in traditional Japanese paper, reveals that the leather cover ages with time and use.
Another at the back pictorially explains the four enclosures inside - Cotton Bag, Leather Cover, Blank Refill & Spare Rubber Band. It also makes a promise that the paper of the enclosed refill (notebook) is resistant to bleed-through (although there is some ghosting), but you can say that there is always a tomoe-river refill available, to simultaneously feel & enjoy ghosting to the maximum!
On opening the brown envelope, you can find the notebook enclosed within a white cotton bag.
You get two spare rubber bands (green & brown). You can also remove the brown one from the enclosure, to use it with the TN.
Now the TN Passport is unveiled. You are right, it’s the Camel one . The leather enclosure is secured by a matching orange rubber band going through a perforation at the back, expresses both sense and simplicity in design. The cover is made of cowhide, ensconcing an elemental texture and I can say from experience that it acquires character over time. It’s supposed to scratch, change colour over time to transform into your signature dated companion. A note explains that the leather has been naturally dyed to retain the texture and wetness could result in coloration of immediate things touching it. To remove blemishes, you can use a normal leather cream (the white one), the one you might have used on your shoes/belts.
The TN carries a single stitched notebook with blank pages (Refill#003). Two strings running across the notebook and the leather cover through multiple perforations are anchored by a small tin clasp, placed at the top-left end of the notebook system. The rubber band fastens the notebook and the rather loosely held non-elastic one is meant to be a bookmark.
As stated in the other review, the economy of this notebook is primarily based on an Add-On model: base + spares, like the Gillette razor-blade model or a Sony PS. But again, Sony too sells its PlayStation at a loss and makes up for the same with the entire gaming economy. So, the ecosystem for the traveler notebook consists of two categories of refills – Notebooks and Accessories. Notebook refills primarily come in 64 pages (both sides) across lined (001), grid (002), blank (003) and lightweight Tomoe-River paper (005) variants. You can accessorize your traveler with pocket-sticker (022) or a camel color pen-holder (015/016), once you purchase the refills, but your only concern could be regarding the price which ranges between $4 to $10. There are several other inserts that are available for the TN. Some older ones have been discontinued. You can find a complete list of refills for the passport sized TN here.
I had ordered two passport sized refills along with this TN - Refill#002 & 005, both have a simple wrap with a coloured stamp conveying the necessary details including the type of paper and number of pages in it.
Adding a refill notebook to TN is pretty easy, by using one of the spare elastic bands to connect the new notebook with an existing one.
The elastic band needs to be secured & adjusted around the spine of both these notebooks.
Embossed at its bottom-left corner of the back cover is the newer 2016 branding of TRAVELER’S notebook & TRAVELER’S COMPANY, JAPAN & MADE IN THAILAND instead of just the usual MIDORI & MADE IN THAILAND. And that is the only visible change.
PHYSICS OF IT (4/6) – RELATIVELY SPEAKING
The dimensions of the TN Passport size are 10 X 13.5 cm , with a thickness of 1.2-1.5 cm with two standard 64 page passport refills.
A passport is quite portable compared to a regular sized TN. However, I am more at ease with the regular size, given my writing style and preferences. The TN Passport could score very well for other who have a smaller handwriting size.
ECONOMIC VALUE (3/6)
The traveler notebook and two 64-pages refill cost me around USD 46, with shipping from Japan. While the price might still be low for a comparative analysis (with other shops), it’s still a notebook and a rather small one for me. And once you are locked in, you might have to purchase refills typically costing anywhere between $4 to $10. That’s TN’s formulae for gross margins. TN is also facing increasing competition in e-com from newer & newer faces like 1, 2 and many others.
Exquisite Design. Yes. First Mover. That too. MD paper is nice, thick and smooth for all your beloved nibs & inks. I tested a medium nib of Pilot Custom 823 running on Iroshizuku Yama Budo ink inside. And it ran smoothly leaving behind the right amount of ink for shading. The thickness and texture of the MD paper makes even a relatively wet ink dry up pretty fast (less than 18 seconds). Although there is a bit of ghosting.
It’s a subjective opinion and you might like the passport more than the regular. I find the regular handy. Then on the inside cover of each refill you have a midori styled passport page to note down your passport details. It’s illogical to travel with this & without your passport, but I still like that act. So if you have already developed a similar cerebral logic and love the style, then get it! Else wait for a year or two and get a limited run to add to your pen & paraphernalia collection.
Thank you for going through the review.
You can find some more pen & paraphernalia reviews here.