Japanese stationery has a cult following around the world. Its reputation for quality and innovation is well-deserved as top stationery companies constantly work to improve common, everyday items. We are here to celebrate some of those innovations by looking at a dozen genius designs in stationery. 

The thing that all of the following stationery innovations have in common is that they do not reinvent the wheel. They are rather small changes to items we use everyday that for various reasons have an outsized impact on our enjoyment, comfort, and efficiency with those items. Check out some of our favorites below. 


Midori MD “1 Page Per Day” Notebook

We’re huge fans of the Midori MD series notebooks and journals. They have paired fine crafted paper with minimalist design for a truly zen journaling experience. 

Genius Design: 

Perforated corners that you tear off as you go, allowing you to instantly open the notebook to the page where you left off.

Midori MD Notebook

Midori MD "1 Page Per Day" Notebook

(Photos by Midori via their website)


Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils have been around since the 1800s, but the technology continues to evolve. Somewhere inside the R+D department of Mitsubishi Pencil Company, someone was thinking very hard about the tiny tip of mechanical pencil lead. And in 2008, we got to know the Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil.

Genius Design:

The Kurutoga Engine. The words “kuru” and “toga” roughly translate to “rotating” and “sharpened”, respectively. The kurutoga system consists of interlocking gears that work to rotate the lead by 9 degrees each time the tip is lifted off the paper. This constant rotation keeps the lead from flattening on one side, and instead keeps the tip evenly sharpened. This produces strokes of a consistent width as you write.

Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencils

(Image and video by Uni via their website)


Zebra ClickArt Retractable Markers

Zebra’s unique retractable felt-tipped ClickArt markers come in 36 vibrant colors available in separate sets of 12, or one complete set of 36. They’re perfect for art projects, lettering, scrapbooking, and more.

Genius Design:

Zebra actually invented ink that absorbs moisture right from the air to keep markers from drying out. No more caps, which means it’s possible to have retractable tips for quick and easy switching between colors.  


Midori Ceramic Box Cutter

There’s lots to love about this little unassuming box cutter. Its compact round shape is actually aesthetically pleasing so you can leave it on your desk and it won’t be an eyesore. There’s also a convenient magnet hidden in the back so you can stick it on the fridge or other metal surface. The blade is ceramic which is super sharp, and rust-proof, and if it does chip or break, you can just take it out, flip it, and there’s a brand new blade on the other side. 

Genius Design:

In addition to all the smart features listed above, this little guy is also designed so that it can not only cut through boxes, but a single sheet of paper if held flat at a 180 degree angle. 


Delde Slide Pen Pouch

We can all benefit from owning a few pen pouches to organize the stationery we’ve accumulated over the years (junk drawers don’t count as organizers). And this one serves double duty as a zipper pouch, and a pen cup. 

Genius Design:

The genius is in the simplicity. There are no flaps or hinges, no complicated origami. You simply grab the tabs on either side, and pull down. Voila, it’s a cup! 


Campus Notebooks

Campus notebooks are the standard for school and office use in Japan. They feature high quality paper made with sustainable forestry, and tear-resistant covers.

Genius Design: 

Campus notebooks feature a unique design element that make them indispensable. A subtle dotted line rule enables users to not only write straight, but keep notes in perfect alignment, especially when indenting. The dots are also useful for drawing tables, diagrams, and graphing.


Kokuyo Karu-Cut Washi Tape Cutter

If you’re a washi tape user, you probably have more than one roll, and you’re probably constantly switching between different rolls. Kokuyo’s Karu-Cut washi tape cutters are like little tape dispensers that you can move from roll to roll giving you neat, straight edges every time without hassle. 

Genius Design: 

Sometimes less is way more. Kokuyo’s tape cutter is genius for its simplicity. A small alligator clip that easily removes and attaches to different rolls of washi tape. The clip slides smoothly around the roll so you can dispense as much or as little tape as needed. And a serrated blade on one side gives a clean tear.


Midori Pulp Storage Pen Case

Midori’s Pulp Storage series features containers made of recycled paper. The body of these stylish pen cases is 100% recycled paper, and even the eyelets on the side are 50% recycled paper, and resin. Remove the elastic band, and the entire unit can be recycled again. 

Genius Design: 

This small but genius design is easily overlooked, but pay attention to the small groves on either side of the lid which allow the elastic to sit flushed with the top. A similar groove runs along the bottom of the box. This allows neat stacking, and no annoying wobbles.


Pilot FriXion Erasable Pens

Pilot FriXion makes erasable pens in vibrant gel inks. They are perfect for taking notes, and writing in a planner.

Genius Design: 

Pilot uses thermo-sensitive ink, which means the ink is affected by extreme temperatures, disappearing in high heat (above 140 F), and reappearing in cold temperatures (below 14 F). Pens are equipped with an eraser, but unlike regular erasers, this one leaves no dust. The friction caused by rubbing the eraser across the paper creates enough heat to make the ink disappear.


Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencils

Zebra calls its DelGuard line of mechanical pencils, “unbreakable”, referring to the lead. These pencils are designed to prevent lead breakage no matter how you hold your pencil, or hard hard you press.

Genius Design: 

Zebra’s patented double spring mechanism protects the lead from vertical pressure, as well as pressure from an angle. 

Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil

(Image by Zebra via their website)


Kokuyo Gloo Square Glue Stick

If you have to use a glue stick, why not use one that is highly functional while also nice to look at? The minimalist design of these glue sticks makes them easy on the eyes, and its attention to detail make them more comfortable to use.

Genius Design:

They’re square. It’s not rocket science, but it’s pretty genius. Most of the time, we’re applying glue to straight edges. With a round glue stick, you always have to make sure you have another piece of paper underneath your work so you can apply the glue to the corners without getting any on your table. With a square glue stick, you can cover more surface area without a mess.

Kokuyo Gloo Square Glue Stick

(Photo by Kokuyo via their website)


Tombow MONO Graph Mechanical Pencil

These beautiful mechanical pencils come in many colors, and feature the flagship MONO eraser.

Genius Design:

Also called the “shaker” mechanical pencil, the MONO Graph features their “shake mechanism” which enables users to advance the lead simply by giving the pencil a gentle shake. This eliminates the need to interrupt the flow of writing with a readjustment of your grip every time you need to click for more lead. And to prevent accidental shaking while in a backpack for example, there is a slider button at the top to lock the mechanism in place.

Tombow MONO Shaker Mechanical Pencil


As we can see from the above examples, no detail is too small, and there’s always room for improvement even in stationery items that have been around for hundreds of years. As stationery brands continue to research and develop, we can be sure there will be more genius design solutions to marvel at in the future.  

September 27, 2021