Life Stationery is another brand that we’ve carried since we opened our doors, and to this day, shipments from Japan are as exciting as ever. Their Noble Note line is iconic among true stationery nerds, and their paper is fantastic for fountain pens.

Motoshige Saitoh-san, the president of Life Stationery (!), was kind enough to pick us up from our place in Tokyo to drive us all the way out to one of their factory/warehouses. In fact, he also brought us on a little tour of some of the stationery shops in Tokyo, but more on that later.

Life Stationery actually has several factories, but this one is closest to Tokyo and is also where they ship out of. They also have offices in Tokyo. We were lucky enough to be able to visit one of their factories—and they put together a Noble Note for us from start to finish so we could see how it’s done. The amount of handwork and skill that’s put into each notebook is incredible.

It all starts with enormous stacks of paper that then gets cut down into size, and counted by a machine.
Each of these green flags represents the number of pages that goes into a signature.
Notebooks are stitched by hand.
Folded and pressed with this beauty of a machine.
This is the bottom bit of a big machine, where they start adding the glue to the strip that holds the bindings.
One of the many bins of offcuts.

It was incredible to see the notebook making in action. They do a lot of the work in stages (cutting all the big sheets at once, stitching all the signatures at once, etc.) so some of the machines weren’t set up to run when we visited, but they cranked things up just to show us, which was tremendously nice of them. I think Caleb’s shock and awe was also a possible motivating factor.

We headed upstairs to see some of the warehouse inventory, and to poke around a little. Life Stationery has hundreds of products, many of which are specialized for the Japanese market (specific rulings, etc.), and while we have their catalogue, it was a sight to see them all organized on crates before our eyes. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for sure.

What a thrill it was to see it all! To be honest, with all of the schlepping around Tokyo we did, being able to see these machines up close, and someone showing him how these notebooks were all made, was probably one of the most exciting things we did. From start to finish, and a notebook in his hand. Magic.

Caleb doesn’t look quite thrilled in the photo below, but we had someone else take the picture, and we got what we got.

Us all with Saitoh-san and Chiaki Takeda-san of Life Stationery
Saitoh-san showed us some of his fountain pen collection and a few of his special edition inks. A kindred spirit.
And they gave the kids these tiny little Noble Notes!

***

Life was at the top of the list of vendors we wanted to visit, and it’s still one of those pinch-me things that we got to tour behind the scenes and talk about our tiny shop and what’s coming down the stationery pipes.

There’s an element of small biz to them that’s so charming and endearing considering the size of their operation, the number of countries they ship to and all the stores they’re found in. There are some larger businesses that are a bit slicker, a bit more sterile, but Life Stationery has so much of what you love in a notebook. They had a shoebox filled with these tiny little cardboard rings—the ends of rolls of green strips used for flagging in between pages for signatures. How many thousands and thousands of signatures must that be?? Boxes stacked up against walls—we are in good company.

It was also something pretty special to be able to meet and talk to Saitoh-san and so many of the others in person. As much as you can communicate online and through emails and try to share how much you appreciate their products and how much your customers appreciate your carrying it, it’s something else to be able to sit down in person and talk face to face, to be able to see and share what they strive for in making their notebooks and the quality of the paper they’re using.

And for us to see their operations, and to see how much work and skill is put into their products: I considered myself a loyal Noble Note user before, but now—these notebooks are amazing.

Also: I’m writing this from Hong Kong. You could say I’m a little behind on keeping things updated. More to come!

July 19, 2019 — wonderpens

Comments

Elaine Pang

Elaine Pang said:

Wonderful!

Larry

Larry said:

It’s great to see the posts of your trip to Japan and, in particular, your visit to the Life Stationary factory. I was introduced to Life notebooks when I visited your shop looking for fountain pen paper and, while I was there, I also I bought my first TWSBI fountain pen,

I’m planning a trip to Tokyo end of September so I may just have to try and arrange a trip to Life or, at the very least, visit the Book District in Tokyo.

Thanks again for posting this and thanks for opening such a great shop in Toronto!

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