The world of paper manufacturing has been an uncertain place lately. There have been changes. There have been rumors. There may have even been lies. Or little fibs. Intrigue at least. So I was sent out by the Well-Appointed Desk on a mission to uncover the truth as far as possible.
Some questions we were asked:
I know there’s a lot of gossip around the end of Tomoe River 52 gsm. First, they were changing manufacturing locations but now I’m hearing they are discontinuing it completely. What’s the story?
Tomoe River 52 gsm paper is highly prized by many fountain pen users. The paper is incredibly thin and light, yet fountain pen ink doesn’t bleed through the page (well, it can if you really try). The coating on the paper allows characteristics of fountain pen ink to show up that are lost on other paper varieties. Sheen, shading, and multi-chromatic properties are greatly enhanced.
In 2020, rumors started up that the manufacturer of Tomoe River paper, Tomoegawa, had changed the manufacturing process of their 52 gsm offering without making the change public. Although the company denied this at first, Tomoegawa did release information confirming the changes. Unfortunately there was not a good way to distinguish the two batches at first, however, this was remedied by adding an N suffix to the paper code.
Is it just the 52 gsm that’s going away or the 68 gsm too?
As the fountain pen community was starting to move forward from this incident, a new rumor started to circulate that Tomoegawa would cease the manufacture of all Tomoe River paper, 52 gsm and the heavier 68 gsm. According to this post by Sakae TP, the company is no longer manufacturing products with Tomoe River paper “due to the discontinuation of the base paper product”. The document showing the discontinued items includes both the 68 gsm and 52 gsm notebooks.
According to Tomoegawa, they have been making Tomoe River paper for the last year at a loss due to increases in the price of wood pulp. At first the loss was small but increased steadily. Once the machines needed repair, the decision was made to discontinue the paper production.
I am sad to say that yes, the rumor is true. Tomoe River paper has come to an end as of December 2020 and the paper that now exists is the last.
I’m having trouble finding any Tomoe River at all. Are people hoarding it?
I have noticed several retailers have sold out of most Tomoe River products. I’m sure this recent news has increase sales of the paper as individuals who fell in love with TR paper try to calculate how much is needed for a lifetime supply. I have been guilty of stocking up a few extra notebooks.
However, I don’t believe even die-hard fans of Tomoe River paper will be able to exhaust the current supply too quickly. Stock is also low due to overseas shipping. Delivery times are getting better as the world emerges from Covid lockdowns, but freight deliveries still face delays.
Most retailers have an option to be notified when they restock their inventory. If you are having trouble finding Tomoe River products, sign up with one or more stores to receive these notifications. Don’t panic.
What’s your best advice for alternatives?
Here is where I can bring good news. The problems we have seen with Tomoe River paper over the last two years has encouraged the search for new paper that would bring out the best in fountain pen ink. New paper types are supposedly being developed by several groups.
The best answer I can give to this question is that paper exists already that is great for fountain pens. However, no other paper behaves exactly like Tomoe River paper. What is the feature you most love about Tomoe River paper? If it is the shading, try Cosmo Air Light. If it is the sheen, take a chance with onion skin paper. If it is how the paper enhances the ink, grab some Bank paper. Perhaps you just want to pour out a bottle of ink on a page without ink bleeding through. Is so, try the new washable paper from Traveler’s. If you love the extra long dry time of Tomoe River paper, try Yupo brands. This last one may not ever dry, however.
I know you like the Cosmo Air Light but what else do you recommend?
Nanami Paper has announced a new paper in notebook form that they call ZEN paper. You can even request a sample of it by sending in a self-addressed stamped envelope! Sakae Technical Paper Company is looking into alternative papers as well.
Musubi has been ahead of the curve on this front, having released folio notebooks with Cosmo Air Light paper and Bank paper. They still have stock of Tomoe River folio notebooks as well (Musubi has confirmed that their current stock is the original, pre-2019 TR paper).
Yamamoto Paper has a collection of 18 types of specialty papers in one notepad. I highly recommend this to individuals seeking new paper adventures! Their paper pad can be purchased directly on their site or from many popular retailers. Shigure Inks, Dromgooles, Pen Boutique carries Yamamoto notepads and several kinds of loose leaf paper.
Graphilo paper does an excellent job holding up to fountain pen ink. Midori MD paper and Midori cotton paper are wonderful with fountain pen ink as well and are becoming more widely available. Onion skin is interesting to use with ink and is unique in the texture department. Curnow Bookbinding and Leather makes A5, Traveler’s size and Passport sized notebooks made of a variety of papers including onion skin.
Traveler’s put out several new types of notebooks this year – the B-sides and Rarities collection – that includes a non-Tomoe River paper that is fountain pen friendly. I plan to review that very soon.
The great news about this change is that many groups are looking for suitable replacements. New paper types are being created. Notebooks are being made with a greater variety of paper. The fountain pen world is full of innovative and driven people who will not rest until the right paper or papers have been found and the Well-Appointed Desk will be here to keep you informed about new products and reviewing those products.
We have written this post to be up to date as of June 3, 2021 and have made every effort to only repeat information from the actual manufacturers. We will update the blog with further information as it becomes available.