in Notebooks

Midori Traveler’s Notebook

(Flickr set)

I have recently received a Midori Traveler’s Notebook, ordered from TheJournalShop. (Please note: “traveller” should have two “l”s in Proper English, but their advertising has it spelled with one. I may randomly switch between the two.)

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.

Midori thin paper front Midori thin paper back

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.