One of my favorite things to buy as souvenirs from Japan is stationery, because they are high quality, useful, and very different from anything you would expect out of a simple pen or eraser. We’ll explore the technology, sense of fun and innovation behind Japanese stationery.

If anyone remembers the pink ball pen eraser which would destroy your paper, we should’ve looked at the Japanese way - for it works. It is possible to have a pen eraser without destroying the paper. It wouldn’t be wrong to call Japan a stationery superpower.

Mechanical pencils and ball point pens are the most ubiquitous item used from whence you were a child. Let's look at the evolution these pens have gone through.

Ballpoint pen came to Japan after WW2 with America, but the American version of the ball point pen were too thick to be used to write kanjis which required thinner tips, hence sharper point pens were introduced, then a lot of colors were introduced to add color to writing. Ball point pens use oil based ink which are viscous and a little strength to be used when writing, some would clot on paper. Water based pen were introduced for a free flowing ink experience, but this would take time before it dries or else smudge on the paper.

In 1980, the best of both which is gel pens were introduced. Then in 2006, another miracle was performed, the ink could be erased. An erasable ball point pen, it’s a global hit. The mechanism behind it is the ink used vanishes at 65 degree Celsius. The friction from the eraser and the paper generates heat and the ink can be erased without any mess. It was a hit and was exported abroad.

The mechanical pencil: the western mechanical pencil back when it was introduced, the knob at the end of the pencil was to be turned for the lead, this required 2 hands, hence the clicker was introduced where only one hand can be used. Evolution didn’t end there, there is also a side click mechanism where you can use your index finger to click without even changing your grip. Some can even be shaken. A gear for even sharpness of the lead is also fascinating.

Erasers: Japan was the first to introduce plastic erasers which didn’t use natural rubber material. Plastic erasers using vinyl, no dust eraser, and correction takes instead of the messy whitener or correction fluid. One eraser even made it to the museum of modern arts in Newyork: It has 28 cornors, for if one cornor become blunt you have 27 others.

Japanese stationery products with their high quality, usefulness and varaiety has won over customers worldwide.  Most stationery started off as influence or basic western items, but the Japanese idea of continual improvement and research to even such small items we wouldn’t think of have also been made to become something very unique to Japan.