Misato Kan

Stationery Sommelier


Her great love for stationery led her to a position at a large variety store after graduating college, where she was put in charge of the stationery section.

Currently she sings the praises of stationery by developing products, planning sales floors, introducing items, writing columns, and making media appearances.

Her books include Mainichi ga Tanoshikunaru Kirameki Bunbogu (“Making Every Day Fun: Brilliant Stationery,” published by KADOKAWA), Bungu ni Koishite (“In Love with Stationery,” from Yosensha Co., Ltd.), and Shigoto o Koritsukasuru Bijinesu Bungu (“Productivity-Boosting Business Stationery,” POPLAR PUBLISHING CO., LTD.). Her most recent publication is Watashi no Sukina Bunbogu no Himitsu (“Secrets of my Favorite Stationery,” EI Publishing Co., Ltd.).


★Visit Misato Kan’s website to see a variety of stationery items:






“Stationery is a tool for eliciting communication. I’d love for businesspeople to try the newest products out there.”



Stationery has always been a familiar part of our lives, from the first time we hold a crayon and drawing paper to the school notebooks and mechanical pencils we use to do our classwork and study for exams—right down to the ball-point pens, clips, and files in our offices.


The stationery section of any retail store is stocked with so many colorful and stylish products that it’s a struggle to size them all up. More and more people have rediscovered the appeal of stationery in recent years.


Misato Kan has been singing the praises of stationery: “Companies provide fewer supplies, so now employees have to pay for the things they need. Also, as women make strides in the business world, they have more freedom in how to spend their time and money, so there are a lot more products on the market now that meet their actual needs. I think these are the primary reasons behind the increased number of people interested in stationery.” Kan’s activities range from writing books and serial columns, to consulting with stationery manufacturers, to planning, developing and designing stationery.


“Lately it’s not so much the big-name companies, but rather companies like their contracted printing firms that are drawing on their manufacturing techniques and ideas more and more to launch their own brands. Then there are the fair number of indie makers who handle the whole process—design, manufacturing, and sales—on their own. The expansion of channels for online shopping has been a major factor in bringing about a variety of innovative products.”



Frequent stationery sales events and social-media driven proliferation over the past few years have led to increased demand among people who were never stationery fans before. On the other hand, the move toward a paperless society and the drop in population here in Japan means major stationery companies have begun eyeing overseas markets.

“I attend conferences and events abroad, too. There’s a lot of demand for high-quality stationery from Japan, and Asia as a whole is popular.” That level of quality is supported not only by Japan’s national trait of putting sensitivity into even the finest details, but also by the country’s unique environmental conditions, which have greatly influenced the expansion of the stationery industry.

“When I asked about the air conditioning during a visit to a notebook factory overseas, I was told that opening the windows was sufficient. This surprised me. Japan’s distinct and varied seasons require temperature and humidity control, so production plants operate under strict conditions. I expect that’s why Japan has such a deep-rooted culture of ingenuity and improvement. Japan is also blessed with soft water, which is easily mixed with pigments for ink. One fun thing about stationery is noticing how it differs with a country’s climate and culture: you’ll see a lot of brightly colored stationery in warmer climates.”





Misato Kan’s Favorite Paper Goods


Sold by: LEUCHTTURM1917


I use this German notebook to collect scoops on the stationery I introduce in my column and to plot out videos. The water-repellent paper makes it great for working in a relaxing bath.

MD Paper Sticky Notes (A7: 74 × 105 mm)

Sold by: MIDORI


I like the simplicity and size. I write my to-do list on one of these and stick it inside my planner, so I can see the things I’ve already done and not forget about them.





Campo Marzio SAFFIANO Notebook

Sold by: N.I.P. International Co., Ltd.


This very Italian memo book comes in characteristic bright colors. I use its pages as bookmarks, jotting down what’s on my mind, peeling off a single sheet, and folding it into my book.





Sold by: KOBEHA Keikaku


I use this paper solely to enjoy the feel of writing with a fountain pen. It’s wonderful to be able to write so smoothly—no scratching, no skipping. If this sounds appealing to you, please do give it a try.





Ms. Kan reads a steady stream of press releases for the latest products on the market so she can spread the word about stationery’s appeal to more people. Her days are spent searching for worthy items to recommend; when something catches her eye, she orders a sample and tries it out herself first. When asked about her standards for selecting a product, she says, “First I picture myself using it: does it strike me as wonderful? Then, after actually using it, I make my decision based on whether it makes my work easier. Looks and utility are both important.”


Her deep dive into the world of stationery began in elementary school. “I was collecting these ‘Puzzle Erasers’ shaped like familiar everyday items. Another girl in my class saw them and exclaimed, “What is that?” For the shy girl I was at the time, stationery was an important tool that created opportunities to talk with my friends. It’s because they’re such a part of our lives that stationery items can elicit communication. I still feel the same way today.”


From childhood on, Ms. Kan’s love for stationery only grew. She took a job at a large variety store and was put in charge of the stationery section—right where she wanted to be. Her experience on the sales floor proved to be immensely valuable. Ms. Kan soon became known far and wide in the stationery industry, thanks not only to her deep affection and broad knowledge of stationery, but also her store know-how and familiarity with the workflow. Her warm sensitivity, unbound by fixed ideas, has been a breath of fresh air.


There are more than a few businesspeople bogged down by daily projects, for whom stationery is merely a tool, and who are satisfied simply to have the products they need. “Because Japanese stationery developed from something quite like generic office supplies, there’s a history of usability being favored over appearance. To put it another way, the older generation uses a lot of stationery at work and has offered suggestions for functional improvement, which has in turn given rise to highly practical stationery. That’s why I’d like the folks working in an office environment to know about the latest stationery products too, not just young people. Take glue, as an example. There’s liquid glue that won’t wrinkle the paper, glue sticks that go on smoothly without clumping, removable gluetape—all products that have been redesigned to address user dissatisfaction. And there are a lot of products like this that have really evolved. Even if you start by simply trying a new ballpoint pen, that might change your work dramatically.”



Being discerning about stationery utility and design could help your work go more quickly and even feel a bit more enjoyable in the process.

This spring, why not seek out a new favorite and bring a fresh attitude to your work?