Midori MD A5 Notebook Review

For many people, when you mention Midori, they think of the very popular Traveler’s Notebook.  Compared to such a high profile range, the MD notebooks are less well known, which is a shame because they really are great notebooks.  I’ve been using one as a journal of sorts for a few months now and think they deserve a great deal more recognition.

The A5 notebooks can be had plain, rules or with a grid pattern.  They’re fairly widely available with similar £/$ prices.  I bought mine from the Journal Shop for £12.95.

In my (so far) limited experience of Japanese stationery, packaging has tended to be simple but exquisite.  The story is no different for the MD.  The simple but beautiful cream card cover is wrapped in a sheet of glassine paper with a wraparound paper sleeve.  The cover is vulnerable to marking easiliy, so this is pretty much a necessity in packaging terms.

Midori MD notebook packaging front view

A plain version of the MD, fresh out of its wrapper


Midori MD notebook packaging rear view

Once you get into using the notebook, the cover is embossed with the MD symbol.  This simple design touch adds to the overall sense of class you get from using these notebooks.

Embossed Midori MD logo


The MD has sewn binding made up of a large number of small signatures, giving a usable page count of 176.  The main result is that the book opens flat without the need to inflict physical violence on it.  As a left-hander, I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of this property in a notebook.  The quality of the stitching is excellent.  The binding is a little unusual in that mull has been used on the spine instead of regular binding tape.  It’s very neatly finished and further adds to the sense of class that goes with these notebooks.

Such a light-coloured cover is vulnerable to marking, but an inexpensive clear plastic cover is available from most of the stockists who sell the notebooks.

Midori MD notebook binding (#2)

Inside you get gorgeous cream paper with a light blue 5mm grid pattern.  If you like your paper to be a crisp white, this may not appeal to you.  I tend to prefer off-white paper, so this works just fine for me.  Unlike some gridded notebooks, the grid blends nicely with the paper stock meaning it does its job unobtrusively – allowing you to get on with the business of writing.  I couldn’t find any definitive information on the weight of the paper, but I’d hazard a guess at 80gsm.

Midori MD grid detail

What’s it like to use?

Here’s a sample written with a fine nibbed Lamy 2000, inked with J. Herbin Perle Noire…

Midori MD handwriting sample

Trying a range of nib sizes and inks didn’t phase the MD paper in the slightest.  There was no sign of any feathering or bleed-through, even with some very wet pen/ink combinations.  This does mean that drying times are not always the quickest, but I’d say it’s no worse for the MD paper compared to other quality papers.  I even tried a Tombow ABT brush pen and the paper behaved itself impeccably.

The paper does have a bit of tooth to it.  This meant getting feedback with some of the drier pen/ink combinations I tried, but it was never enough to be a problem.  I found that some of these were harder work to write with than others, so you might have a bit of trial and error figuring out which ones work well for you and which ones less so if you write a lot in one sitting.

It won’t come as a surprise that the cream paper base affects the appearance of some inks.  Darker inks fared pretty well, but some lighter inks like Rohrer and Klingner Alt Goldgrun lost a bit of their punch compared to when used on lighter papers.

These are minor niggles, though, and in my opinion are outweighed by the performance and quality of these notebooks.

Midori MD various pen samples

There is some show-through, but I haven’t found it at all intrusive when writing on the reverse of a page.

Midori MD show-through


In conclusion, these are fantastic quality notebooks which I’ve come to love over the past couple of months of use.  Any negatives are pretty small and vastly outweighed by the positives of design, execution and function.  The paper is exquisite and takes pretty much any ink you might choose to throw at it.  If you haven’t tried one and are looking for a new notebook to try, I thoroughly recommend them.



Snake eyes

If you suffer from ophidiophobia you might want to look away now.  Here’s what arrived in the post today…

Jinhao 'snake' fountain pen

Snakes on a pen!

I saw this on Amazon and couldn’t resist.  It’s so outrageous that it’s passed all the way through bad taste and emerged the other side with a certain swagger.  It’s a beast of a pen (in more ways than one), weighing in at around 85g.  Half of that is down to the cap alone!

Jinhao 'snake' fountain pen showing nib

Did I mention there are snakes?

The pen itself is quite slim – I guess to allow for the added (ahem) “decoration”.  Perhaps surprisingly it sits quite nicely and comfortably in the hand.  You can post the cap, but the only reason I can think you would want to is if you wanted a mini-staff so you could pretend to be an ancient Egyptian high priest or something.  In the real world posting the cap ruins the balance of the pen.

Jinaho 'snake' fountain pen cap details

I’ve got my eye on you…

Overall quality and finish seem pretty reasonable.  A quick test with some Diamine Twilight suggests the nib is on the fine side, but out of the box it seems a reasonable writer.

I’m looking forward to trying it out properly…

Ink Review – Diamine Graphite

Diamine Graphite bottle and Pilot Custom Heritage 91

Diamine Graphite and Pilot Custom Heritage 91

Here goes with my first ever ink review…

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the time of year or the weather, but here at Slightly Unnerved Towers darker, more muted ink colours seem to be the flavour of the month.  I’m gradually working through a bunch of these, but Diamine’s Graphite is one that’s caught my eye recently.

Diamine Graphite is a dark grey ink with an element of green to it.  It could have been called slate without raising too many eyebrows.  Either way it’s much darker than other grey inks I’ve tried to date and it lacks the blue tint that a lot of greys seem to have.

A bit of kitchen chromatography confirms that what you see is what you get and there’s nothing out of the ordinary or dramatic about it.

Diamine Graphite chromatogram

That could be seen as a negative if you like your inks filled with drama, but I don’t mind.  In its understated way, Graphite gets on with the job.  It’s subtle and straightforward enough to be used in a work context, but it also shades enough to provide some interest.

This ink is well lubricated and flows nicely.  I’ve used it in several pens and not yet had a bad experience.  Like most Diamine inks, it’s not waterproof, but for my purposes that not a problem.  Particularly with being a left-hander, I haven’t had any issues with drying times – a little over 20 seconds to fully dry on Tomoe River paper.

Here’s what it looks like on Tomoe River paper:

Tomoe River sample

Here’s what it looks like on Clairefontaine 1951 paper:

Diamine Graphite Clairefontaine 1951 paper

As with other Diamine inks, Graphite is pretty widely available in either 30ml or 80ml bottles, with the 80ml size being good value at around £6.00/$15.00 a bottle.  That said I really like the fact that you can buy the smaller bottles.  It’s great for inks that you might only use occasionally or still aren’t quite sure of.  Diamine have revamped the design of their labels, but not their bottles.  The best you can say about the 30ml bottles is that they’re functional.  They certainly won’t win any design awards, but at this price point it’s something most people should be able to live with.

Grey inks are not to everyone’s taste, but if you’re thinking of trying some out Diamine Graphite is well worth putting on the list.