A couple months ago, I received two Tsubame Fools University Notebooks from my friend Fiona and after testing them out for a little bit, I decided it was time to post a review.
Tsubame is somewhat of an enigma to me. They have been around since 1947 and seem to be doing well for themselves. Yet their website looks like it hasn’t changed since the 90’s and it can only be found if you look up Tsubame in Japanese (ツバメノート). According to the Google-translated version of their website, the design of these notebooks haven’t changed since they first came out. For the Japanese, these are basic composition notebooks that have become a widely used classic.
The Tsubame Fools University Notebooks come in two sizes: A5 & B5. While they produce the notebooks with page counts ranging from 30 sheets to 100 sheets, the 30-sheet version seems to be the most accessible one outside of Japan. I was gifted the 100-sheet version.
There are minor differences between the A5 & B5 edition. The A5 has 24 7mm-spaced lines and the B5 has 28 approximately 8mm-spaced lines. Otherwise, their design is pretty much the same. Both have a thin cardstock cover with a frame around the word ‘Notebook’ along with 2 lines. (I’m assuming it’s a space for you to label the notebooks.) On the left side of the cover is a textured black binding that holds the notebook together. It has a yellow sticker on the top and the product label on the bottom. I can’t decide if the yellow sticker has a specific function, but for know I assume that it’s aesthetic.
The inside of this notebook is stitch-bound with 4 signatures. The inside front cover has a bunch of Japanese and the first page is a blue index page. The regular pages have a space left open at the top and bottom, a header and a footer. There are evenly-spaced dots along the header and footer line. I assume it’s a guide for Japanese characters, but I don’t know if I ever see characters spaced so far apart. On the other hand, they are a great guide for drawing dividing lines. For example, if you want to split the page into two, the dots are a great guide.
Overall the design was as functional as you can expect from a basic composition book.
Before I talk about the writing experience, I want to mention a cool aspect of this paper. First of all this paper is called “Furusu” or fools paper and the website says it’s been carefully developed over time. The special thing about this paper is that it has a watermark. If you hold it up to the light, you can see a ton of narrowly spaced horizontal lines and more spaced out vertical lines. Honestly, I don’t know how or if this affects the functionality of the paper, but it is cool.
Now, let’s review the writing experience. According to Tsubame, this paper is fountain pen friendly, so it will not bleedthrough or feather. In my experience, they are pretty accurate. As you can see from the ink test, the paper holds up pretty well to fountain pens. With the Pilot Parallel 6.0 nib was there minor feathering, but, otherwise, this paper is pretty great.
There is some showthrough, but it is slightly better than the showthrough from Tomoe River paper. It is pretty comparable to the showthrough in the Midori MD paper, though it’s hard to compare because the MD is much creamier in color. Only the Sharpie bled through and that’s to be expected.
The paper is generally smooth, but has a litle tooth to give you feedback while writing. I personally prefer paper that gives you feedback while writing so I really appreciated the Fools paper. The paper is an off-white color pretty similar to the color of the Crossfield paper. It is a nice white that is easy on the eyes yet still very bright.
In general, I have very high standards for Japanese paper and the Tsubame paper lived up to them quite well.
I really enjoy using these Tsubame Fools University notebooks. The paper quality is comparable to the other Japanese papers I’ve tried, which is to say it is top-notch. There is an index which is a nice touch and the overall design is inviting in a Japanese way. I am using the A5 notebook as a correspondence tracker and I even added a DIY tabbed address book in the back. I am confident this notebook will last me through all the letters. I am using the B5 notebook for all ACLU notes and I love it because it fits the meeting agendas that I print out.
If these notebooks piqued your interest, you can find the 30-sheet versions at Jetpens for 2.35-5.50. If you want the 100-sheet versions I have, Amazon is your best bet. (A5 & B5). If you are a Star Wars fan and really want a Star Wars version, you can get it from Rakuten. However, be prepared to pay a premium for it. I hope this review was helpful. Thank you for reading!