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Japanese Minimalism: The Midori Traveler’s Notebook

December 8th, 2008 · 39 Comments · black book

Hello there.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, a leather-bound journal from Japan, is something I’ve been wanting to review for a quite a while.  Advertised as the notebook for “all the travelers who have a free spirit,” I’ve received numerous e-mails asking us for a review, and more importantly, how to get one.

However, as far as I can tell, Midori products are not sold anywhere in the United States. Repeated e-mails to the company website went unanswered, and I had pretty much given up on reviewing one of these when I stumbled on Just Ann’s blog, which had full instructions for ordering from a Japanese online retailer. I was a bit skeptical, but less than a week after I placed my order, I had a copy of the journal in my hands direct from Japan (full ordering instructions to follow this review).

The notebook offers its own summation on the attached insert: “Each leather cover is made by hand in Chiangmai, a city in northern Thailand. It appeals its own raison d’etre by the simplicity: roughly cut leather and a rubber band with the clasp made of tin. The inside notebook is made in Japan carefully and has Midori’s original paper made to pursue the highest comfortability to write.”

Midori further encourages the owner to “please write down at random what you feel or what you think in the cafe you dropped into during your travel, which will surely be your precious treasure. Besides, you may find a new feature every day, going to work, having this ntoebook in your hand. It may change your life.”

OK, so the English translation is a bit spotty, but I have to admit that the romanticism of this idea got to me. A simple notebook made for trekking across the world? Something that Indiana Jones might carry on adventures to Egyptian tombs and, er, sidewalk cafes? Sign me up!

We’re reviewing the brown version today, though a black version is also available (I would’ve reviewed the black version, except I think it looks somewhat like a check book).

This journal is totally different from anything we’ve previously reviewed.  First off, size-wise, it measures in at approximately 8.5″x4.5″ (21.5cmx11.5cm), which pretty much prohibits pocket travel. In comparison to the Moleskine…well, there really is no comparison.

But that’s OK. It’s one thing to attempt to be a pocket notebook and fail by being an inch or two too wide.  It’s another to never intend to be a pocket notebook, and the Midori fits this category. It feels much better suited to an inner jack pocket, or some sort of travel bag.

The cover, as mentioned earlier, is hand made in northern Thailand. It’s real leather, a rarity amongst most of the journals we’ve reviewed, and feels (and smells!) great. It scuffs and scratches very easily like real leather, but much of this can easily be buffed out. The insert reminds you, “this notebook has a leather cover, which the more you use, the better quality it becomes…The leather quality changes and scratches remain as your memories, this notebook will be more precious than ever to you.” OK, there’s some exaggeration here, but it is both simple and of high quality.

It’s also very, very flexible:

You could pretty easily roll this up and shove it in your back pocket, but fresh out of the box, you’re probably not going to want to do that. It feels like it wants to be treated with a little more respect, for better or for worse. An elastic band comes out of the center of the back cover to keep the notebook shut, and I have to say that this elastic band is damn tight.

As you can see, the leather is very rough (as it should be) on the reverse side. The journal is meant to be reusable, and an elastic band around the spine allows you to easily remove Midori paper inserts when you run out. This is a very good thing, as the included insert only has about 60 pages.

The pages are a nice creamy white color. They’re relatively thick, and don’t bleed ink very easily. The pages that come with the journal are blank, but there are a number of different replacement inserts you can buy, including lined, gridded, and dated pages. Inserts also come with as many as 128 pages.

For a bookmark, there’s an odd elastic band down the middle of the notebook (the loose one; the other is the band that holds the insert in). I’m not quite sure how to use this yet, as it seems a bit too difficult to switch to a different page without breaking it, but I’m sure it’s just something I’m not getting (first time I’ve been stumped by a bookmark).

The Midori Traveler’s journal costs 3350 Yen, or approximately $36 American dollars.  With shipping to New York City, my total came to $48. So the real question is clearly: “Is this notebook worth $48?”

For me, not really. If I traveled more, maybe, but then, I’m a huge fan of the Ciak, which is basically a smaller, thicker, and more useful version of this. However, that certainly doesn’t make this a bad notebook. The quality is great, I like the refillable inserts, and in case you run into trouble with a broken elastic band or a bookmark, you can even buy a relatively cheap repair kit (which also gives you the ability to change the colors of said bands). I think this notebook appeals to a certain notebook crowd who are going to love it.

However, if you are going to order this, just make sure you realize: this is a simple notebook. Very simple. Shockingly simple. It’s a nice leather cover, about 60 pages inside, an elastic band around the spine, a bookmark, and a band to keep it closed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I first opened the package (and wow was there a lot of very romantic packaging), I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s only in reviewing this now that I’m beginning to appreciate it for what it is – a simple notebook. And as I continually expound, the beauty in notebooks, to me, is in their simplicity.

Ordering instructions:

OK, ready? This is actually pretty easy. The Japanese website that sells these is The site is only in Japanese except for a short section on how to place international orders. Click HERE to read those instructions – about midway through the page, you’ll find some English.

Summary: What you have to do is send an email with the item #, quantity, and color, along with your name, address, country, and phone number, to They’ll send you an invoice, which you then pay by Paypal. Once this is done, they ship it out to you immediately – I received mine less than a week after I paid, direct from Japan.

The basic Traveler’s Notebook (brown or black) is here (I’ve used Google’s Translate program to help). The item number is #7063902. You can find the various Midori add-on products, including page inserts, repair kits, binders, and folders, here.

In summary:

Send an email to

In the body of the email, write:

Item #: 7063902
Item name: Midori Traveler’s Notebook
Color: Brown (or black)
Quantity: 1

Address (inc. country)

Easy, right? They were pretty quick in getting back to me. If you’re interested, I’d place an order quickly – according to the website, they only have four left in stock. I’d also buy any inserts now rather than later – they’re not that expensive, and the shipping won’t change that much.


39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lanzman // Dec 8, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I have never cared for “refillable” notebooks like this. There’s no sense of permanence, no thought that it could be something you’d hand down to your kids. In other words, it’s not “book like” enough for me. Might as well be a loose-leaf binder.

  • 2 Speedmaster // Dec 9, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Wonderful review and pics!

  • 3 Erik Przekop // Dec 10, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Another great review. I ordered a pile of notebooks based on your reviews, but not necessarily your recommendations – I may have different preferences. Your reviews were enormously helpful, though, since they gave me a starting place.

    In hand I have a black n’ red A5 size, which I rather like, but which isn’t very portable. I decided that I have to experience for myself exactly what is portable & not, so I ordered a few online that Office Max didn’t carry:
    * 3-1/2 x 5 Moleskine (plain)
    * A6 Xonex Ru (I *think* these are ruled)

    I have never tried a plain (non-ruled) notebook before, so I’ll probably jump to the Moleskine after my current Black n Red is full.

    Thanks again for the great reviews and pictures! You were a big help.

  • 4 Matt // Dec 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I saw this notebook for sale locally in San Francisco at MaiDo Stationery & Gifts. So for those of you in the Bay Area, you can get it today :)

    I think I also saw it at Kinokuniya in Japan Town.

  • 5 Steve // Dec 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I’m not exactly sure what the looser elastic band is for, but I don’t think it’s a bookmark. Maybe for putting additional inserts into the cover. See the following:

  • 6 michael // Dec 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    there is in fact a supplier in the U.S., Maido Stationery & Gift, based in California. Very pleasant to deal with and responsive to requests.

    Full ordering instructions here:

  • 7 AJ // Dec 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Also sold at Japanese stationer in New York City across the street from Bryant Park.

  • 8 Anon // Dec 31, 2008 at 5:56 am

    I saw these in Hong Kong last weekend. They can be found in the stationery shop in the City Super store in the basement of Times Square. The stationery dept is a little hard to find. It’s tucked way in the back behind the rollerballs and gel pens. They also stock Moleskine and Rhodia, as well as Lamy and some high-end FPs.

  • 9 Ann // Dec 31, 2008 at 7:55 am

    The second, looser string in the middle is indeed a bookmark. It’s “stuck” in between and needs to be pulled out.

    This is really comprehensive guide. :) I love it. I’m still using my Midori and it does feel good in the hand, like a very luxurious item. But, as some commenters and you have pointed out, it may not be for everybody.

  • 10 Blank pages « Printers Row Poet // Jan 1, 2009 at 7:09 pm

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  • 11 Patrick Ng // Jan 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Nice review pal! And I’m holding on my hand a limited edition white leather cover :) Will post soon about it.

  • 12 J. Alcantara // Jan 28, 2009 at 9:56 am

    The Midori journal can be easily found at Kinokuniya, in New York City. The store is superb.

    J. Alcantara
    Brasilia, Brazil

  • 13 Mike // Feb 7, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Disappointed you have decided to (apparently) abandon blogging at the Black Cover. You’re a good writer and this blog had great possibilities!

  • 14 Lanzman // Mar 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I’m starting to get concerned here . . . no posts since December?

  • 15 Iago // Mar 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Hi, great review, a lot of information. Do you know some web place in europe to buy midori traveler´s notebook easily?

  • 16 David // Apr 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Decided to buy the Midori after some considerable research, using both this site and Patrick’s flickr photostream. Followed your instructions which were terrific. One piece of advice for anyone else trying – the translated website doesn’t default to the url address which contains the final digits for the order numbers. I just opened two tabs – one for the translated site, the second for the ‘real’ site and switched ebtween the two just to be sure I was getting what I wanted.

    Service from this company was of the highest order. Friendly prompt emails. I ordered mid-evening on Sunday, the parcel arrived here in the UK this morning (Thursday). Bomb-proof packaging. Decent prices too. Would strongly recommend doing business with them.

    By the way, when you order the cover (klast item on page 2 of related products) you get one blank (i.e. unruled) notebook. This isn’t fully clear on the website.

    Thanks again for all of the brilliant reviews on this site. Keep it up.

    Best Wishes

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  • 18 jkr // Sep 13, 2009 at 3:10 am

    There is also a passport size notebook for people who want a pocket notebook.

  • 19 Marc // Nov 2, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I like the idea of using a leather cover over and over again.
    The Midori strongly reminds me of the X17 from a german previous student, which I use recently. They use 3 – 4 booklets in a cover, each kept in place with standard sealing O-Rings. (see.

  • 20 Jessica D // Dec 4, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Although the leather cover is very sexy, I’m sorry, but I’m going to stick to a pocket-sized, unruled moleskine. Though a leather moleskine would totally look like Henry Jones Sr. used to carry ;o)

  • 21 charlie guerreiro // Mar 5, 2010 at 12:38 am

    in this site, various midori items to order.
    and in english :)

  • 22 LightStyle // Apr 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with the review – these notebooks are very well designed and so practical as you can insert different types of paper, plastic pockets, card holders and other accessories. For anyone looking to buy the notebooks or accessories online, I found them at online boutique Here is a link:

  • 23 Omar K // Jul 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve been using Moleskines for years… until the fateful day when every city-boy began to carry them. I’ve just started my 2nd Ciak (certainly by far the best journal I’ve come across yet). However, are sending me a trial sample, confident that they can convert me to the charms of the Midori. With so many options it’s hard to resist, but the comment of permanence concerns me. I will return here with my own impressions shortly.

  • 24 I Hughes // Aug 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    These are now available from stock in the UK at the Journal Shop

  • 25 Erik // Sep 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I live in Japan and this is the only Notebook that I have ever used for any period more then 2 weeks. It’s just awesome.

    I made a video on it plus my Life Management System here:
    Feel free to look only at the first part of the video to see the notebook from various angles.

  • 26 Potsie // Sep 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    his looks like something that could be made very easily and cheaply yourself.

  • 27 ling tang // Oct 28, 2010 at 10:57 am

    i am from japan,whent on safari to masai mara…….that was excelant the wildlife,secenery,birdwatching was a one of a kind thanks to(

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  • 31 Bunker // Feb 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Indiana wouldn’t pay that much. He’d also have one with more pages and places to stash maps.

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  • 33 wakako // Aug 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

    hi there!
    Just wanted to let you know that I have an online shop that carries Japanese stationary including Midori’s Traveler’s Notebook and accessories. If you are looking for refills or ordering other Traveler’s Notebook, stop by:)

    Have a great week!

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  • 35 Marco Brandao // Nov 25, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Here is my update on this old post.

    I was looking for a notebook to give to my son for Christmas present.
    After some research at the Internet I was able to find out that Midori has a site in English/Japanese.

    Here is the link:

    Click in stores to find stores around the world and USA.

    Also, I found a site with some tutorial on how to use Midori products.

    Best regards,

  • 36 Diana // Nov 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    They sell it in too. They are based in CA.

  • 37 zammboss // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Just placed an pre-order for a Camel 5th Anniversary edition set to come out March 18th 😀 thanks for the review. Hope I like it.

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