Saturday, October 22, 2011

Notebook Review: Midori Traveler's Notebook

The Midori Traveler's Notebook has been one of my grail notebooks for the longest time. When I started collecting (and using) high-quality notebooks, I read about it at Patrick Ng's Scription site, and instantly fell in love with it. I wanted it, but I knew I could not have one. Yet. It was expensive and not available here in the Philippines. So I just continued to ogle at the thousands of Midori Traveler's Notebook photos on Flickr.

Unknown to me, the Philippines' biggest seller of fountain pen related stuff, Scribe Writing Essentials, has began stocking up and selling this highly coveted cultish notebook. After talking to its owner, Marian Ong, a notebook set was sent to me for review, pronto.

Marian sent me a large black Traveler's Notebook (TN) and I was instantly amazed by its Japanese packaging style, which is both presentation and function. Midori's packaging is minimalist and simple, yet elegant and classy. The notebook is packaged very well inside what looks like a thin box made from kraft paper, held together by a firm black elastic band. A small flyer about the notebook is also included in the packaging.

Inside the box are: large black leather Midori TN, cotton slipcase for the notebook, blank notebook refill (003), and a spare red elastic band to hold the notebook cover and refills. The soft cowhide leather of the Midori notebook/journal (sourced from Chiang Mai, Thailand), and the wide variety of changeable inserts, embellishments and other accessories give it a unique charm and magic.

The first thing on my mind when I saw my Midori TN is the paper used in the notebook refill. Paper is very important to me as I am a regular user of fountain pens. And I am ready and willing to forego any notebook if the paper cannot tolerate my very wet fountain pens and very saturated inks. Would it stand fountain pen use? Or would ink feather and bleed through its pages? Luckily for Midori TN, I knew that I can make my own refills, so paper is not an issue, but I'll discuss that towards the later part of this review.

The blank notebook refill has a kraft board cover and 64 pages of cream-colored paper . The inside cover page is printed with an upright rectangular box and the Midori logo.

As soon as the notebook was out of the box, it's customization galore!!! The first thing I did was to change the elastic bands. I opted to use the red band to give the notebook some contrast and brightness. The tiny round thing on the upper left corner of the notebook cover holds the elastic bands that keep the notebook inserts in place.

I rummaged through my boxes of stuff and found a small glass bead charm I could use to secure the end of the Midori TN's thin bookmark. Lovely, isn't it?

Next, I made my own refills using pages off my large Rhodia dotPad. I went to a printer, had them saddle-stapled several notebooks, and trimmed according to the Midori TN refill size. I recycled Starbucks paper bags as covers for my new refill notebooks. I had fun making Dymo tags for them too.

The first notebook is for lists of everything I have done and finished the whole day --  an inverted 'to-do' list.

The second refill is for my notes. Any notes. Blog ideas, project concepts, sketches, hand drawn maps, phone numbers, pen and paper stores, ink notes, restaurant bestsellers, etc.

Refill number three is a microjournal, called so because I have a full journal already. I just want to have a journal in my Midori TN. I have small writeups in this notebook about places I visited, postcards I received, books I've read, or movies I've watched.

I have also included Midori's plastic zipper pocket refill. This refill has one large zippered pocket and another pocket without a zipper. The zippered pocket can hold a lot of stuff, especially small pieces of paper such as receipts, stamps, business cards. Sometimes I put a pen or two inside and still manage to zip it. The pocket without zipper can accommodate bigger sizes of paper like postcards, prescription notes, etc.

Perhaps you've noticed that I've added another bookmark to my Midori TN with a new charm. I made one more bookmark for my "Finished/Done" notebook, as the original bookmark/charm is used on my microjournal. I love these charms!

But the customization does not end there for my Midori TN. It's now full of stickers and stuff (stamps, tea bag tags, postcards, etc. I know there will be more of these as the leather gets more scratches and scuffs softens with use and becomes more beautiful. 

Finally, the paper test. The refill that came with my Midori TN is blank. As I have difficulty writing on blank pages, I went ahead and ordered a ruled/lined refill which is what I used in the pen and ink test below. The cream-colored paper used in the ruled/lined refill is Midori paper. There are two types of paper used on Midori's notebook refills. One is Midori Diary (MD) Paper, the other is Designphil Pocket Book (DP) Paper. A note in the Midori website (here) gives a full explanation on the differences of the two paper types.

Midori Paper is smooth and thankfully fountain pen friendly. Some ink types showed feathering, but not one of all the inks I tested here bled.

Below is the back of the pen and ink test I did. There is not bleeding at all. The tiny blob of orange is show through, but it is very mild and not very noticeable. I say I'll be using this refill for another microjournal when my own refills ran out of pages.

I've kept the red elastic band for now and rotate several black bands with different combinations of trinkets and charms. One band has a small pewter elephant, another has a series of different color beads with a drop of olive green Swarovski stones, rescued from an earring without a matching pair. I've also changed charms since, and I have ordered a batch of lovely charms from a local supplier. I have stocked up on black elastic band from a local crafts store and just yesterday, I got a set of vintage letterstamps I'll use for more fun of notebook customizations. Will I use this notebook for how long it will be serviceable? Yes. With a notebook as versatile as the Midori TN, who wouldn't? The possibilities with the Midori Traveler's Notebook is excitingly never-ending!

The large Midori Traveler's Notebook used in this review is courtesy of Scribe Writing Essentials, and the regular, passport size notebooks and their refills are all available in their Eastwood City Mall store. A regular/large Midori Traveler's Notebook set sells for PHP2,595 (~US$61), while a passport-sized notebook costs PHP2,295 (~US$54). If you are somewhere in Asia, and would like to try the possibility of ordering from them, give them a call at +63 2 487 6339. 


  1. What a creative review!!! Love the stamps. ;)

  2. Wonderful review!! I love the charms on your page ribbons.

  3. Can you tell us more about the notebooks you made with the Starbucks bag covers? How many pages did you use to make your custom inserts for your new Travelers Notebook? And what size did they end up being?

    Fantastic review! This is making my Midori lust even stronger, though!

  4. I'm sorry but if I'm going to buy a notebook for that price it better be great for the money. I think your just buying the leather which you can get for a fraction of the price. but I do enjoy the recycling of the Starbucks bags and charms... it looks good!

  5. I love what you did with your notebook! I just got one, and I am totally stumped as to how to add a second refill or change the elastic band that's in the round button thing. Do you have any suggestions/info?

  6. @bleubug: Thank you for those stamps! :D

    @Julie (O-kami): I got new charms now. I change them from time to time. :)

    @Robin: The refills I made out of the Rhodia dotPad paper and Starbucks bag were according to the size of the original Midori refills. I pulled pages off my dotPad and used the same number of sheets, used the Starbucks bag for cover, went to a printing press to have the notebooks stapled and cut. :D

    @The Original Steven H!: That's my initial thought, too. But after seeing and using the notebook, I'm hooked. My next project is to create my own passport notebook, using recycled leather and my own refills.

    @Penemuel: I inserted the elastic band through the leather's holes, not through the button.

  7. Anonymous10:14 AM

    Wow, what a cool looking notebook. I'm thinking of getting one, but I'm curious, does it only accept the midori refills, or can you technically use any small notebook that fits within the cover, say the medium sized midori MD notebook :D? The refills are expensive where I live :(

  8. Love your review and creativity! I've recently become a carrier of the Midori TN myself, but find it useful to carry more than two notebooks at a time. I've played with variations on re-binding the TN, but am not yet sure I've found my ideal method. Looks like you've strung two binding bands on yours. Could you possibly show me a diagram of your method. I'm always looking for new/better ideas. Keep up the great work!

  9. I love how you actually reused Starbucks paper!

  10. Hey man, first of all i have to say great blog! My girlfriend actually got me a Midori TN for xmas and i had a couple of questions for you.
    1. How did u manage to at add another book mark without changing the fastener?
    2. When u added the second refill did u use the 2nd band? if so, then wasnt it really tight?
    please let me know, i've been looking to customize my midori for a while now. Also if you have time please check out my site, i wrote something about the midori as well.
    Thanks in advance and once again, great site and more power to you!

  11. Hi, great review you have! Sorry I was looking for your email to contact you personally but I can't seems to find it.
    We are going to have an online store to sell Midori TN in Malaysia, in order to have an informative website, we would like to get your permission to introduce your review to our reader. Please let us know if we allowed to do so?
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Fong from tabiyo

    1. Hi Fong! It would help me if you could provide an email address where I could send you a message. Thank you!

  12. Hi! I love the way you wrote, what calligraphy font do you use ?? Thanks!

  13. Anonymous4:57 PM

    I am sooo inlove with this Traveler's Notebook!!! I've purchased mine when I was in Bangkok and I've been obsessed with it since then. Bought one for my bf too and he's actually using it everyday. We're travellers and we love leather hehe. He ditched his fave wallet for this. We bought "sleeve" or pocket fill for his phone (iphone6s+)(which fits perfectly) and paper notes (money), along with credit card holders which holds, well his cards and the stickers that I bought! Now that I'm back in the Philippines so glad that "Scribe Essentials" sells this notebook. Was so afraid that I wont get any refills for my Monthly planner for next year. Awesome Review!!

  14. Thank you for making this review. Like you, I've been addicted to Midori TN and can't stop oggling on it online, on a daily basis. Still finding the perfect size for me, and perhaps I'd drop by a Scribe shop soonest. Glad to know that they're selling it here in PH. More power!