Kokuyo Perpanep ($14.25 each) is a new line of paper notebooks that take a bit of study to make sense of the line. The Perpanep name, for starters is an anagram of the words “pen” and “paper” which is a bit of a tongue twister to say.
Then, the books come in three ruling options: dot grid, graph and steno style. The dot grid is a smaller-than-usual 4mm spacing, the graph/grid is a traditional 5mm and the Steno (lined paper with a rule down the center of the page) is a wider 6mm though not as wide as US and European “wide-ruled” papers.
All three notebook rulings are printed in a light grey but the 4mm dot grid is the least visible. If you are looking for a very subtle ruling, the 4mm dot grid is a good option, though narrower than most. If you need slightly more visible ruling, the graph/grid is much more visible as is the Steno.
Finally, there are actually three different paper types: Tsuru Tsuru (the smoothest option), Sara Sara (the in-betweeen) and Zara Zara (the toothiest option). Luckily, to save any additional confusion, the Perpanep series is currently only available in A5 so that is one factor you don’t have to consider at this point.
Each notebook in the line features a simple, grey cardstock cover with a cheesecloth binding and comes wrapped in a lightweight cellophane cover to protect the book. Printed in white on the cellophane cover is the symbol associated with the paper texture. Each Perpanep notebook features 120 pages.
When viewed from the edge, the Zara Zara (toothy paper) notebook is a bit thicker than the Sara Sara or Tsuru Tsuru.
Thanks to the overwrap binding, all three notebooks easily lay flat when open and the cardstock covers, while not heaavy will allow the covers to be folded back as well, especially if the cello overwrap is removed.
The Perpanep Tsuru Tsuru
The paper in all three books is a soft white. The Tsuru Tsuru is absolutely the smoothest of the three and reminded me of Rhodia paper though I think the Tsuru Tsuru paper is not as glassy as Rhodia. With Rhodia, I sometimes feel that my pens “get away from me” if the nib or ink is super silky. With the Tsuru Tsuru, I noticed very little resistance as I was writing but I didn’t feel like I was losing control of my tools either. The smoothness would be extremely appealing to anyone who prefers extra-extra fine nibs or fiber (felt) tipped pens as the paper has little friction.
There was little to no show-through or bleed-through with the Tsuru Tsuru paper.
When using broader nibs like a music nib, there was a little squeak or feeling of squeaking when I wrote (think of the squeaky clean feeling after washing your hair… except on paper).
Pencils were difficult on this paper as there was no surface texture for the graphite to grab onto.
I’d recommend the Tsuru Tsuru to anyone who prefers extremely fine tipped pens or felt tip style tools.
The Perpanep Sara Sara
Using the Goldilocks metaphor for this paper, the Perpanep Sara Sara would be the “just right”. The Sara Sara paper is still very smooth but has a bit more texture than the Tsuru Tsuru.
I noticed that the Sara Sara performed particularly well with ballpoint and rollerball (liquid ink) pens. The smooth with just a little texture allowed the roller balls to roll easily, particularly with the extra fine tips that sometimes get fibers trapped in the roller mechanism on toothier paper.
Fountain pens performed extremely well whether the nib was extra fine or extra wide. There was little evidence of bleed- or show-through.
I’d recommend the Sara Sara to just about everyone as the paper seems to accommodate most pens easily. However, if you frequently use roller-style pens like rollerballs or ballpoints (liquid or oil-based inks) then you will be particularly pleased with the Sara Sara.
The Perpnep Zara Zara
While noticeably toothier than the other two paper offerings, the Zara Zara is not nearly as textured as, say, a Col-o-ring card. It is pleasingly textured if you find your pens running away from you.
Again, bleed- and show-through were not an issue.
Because of the texture of the paper, gel pens performed best on this paper as the texture slowed the super-slick, gel ink down just a bit. Pencils also performed particularly well on this paper.
Fountain pens worked well but the toothier texture allowed the ink from wider nibs to settle into the paper a bit more than the other Perpanep papers. With my smaller handwriting, this meant that the counters on some of my letters filled in, more so than on the other papers.
I normally favor toothier stocks as they often help slow down super slick pens but thanks to the availability of the Sara Sara paper, the Zara Zara is best for people who use gel pens or pencils most often. I wish there was a blank paper option of the Zara Zara as I would use it for pencil sketching.
When I initially saw the wide range of options with the Perpanep notebooks, I was hesitant. If I didn’t choose the right paper or the right ruling, the notebook might just sit. Luckily, all the the papers are good with most everything I threw at them but there was definitely a preference of paper-to-tools with each model of the Kokuyo Perpanep line. While I think you’ll appreciate any of these notebooks, being aable to choose your combination of paper and ruling means it will be a pretty likely you’ll get a notebook you love.
The Tsuru Tsusu is best for extra fine nibs and felt tip pens but not recommended for heavy users of pencils. The Sara Sara is most compatible with a wide range of tools. If you are looking for a notebook that will work with whatever pen or pencil is at hand, then the Sara Sara will work best, especially wider fountain pens. And finally, the Zara Zara is the most textured and will work best with pencils and gel pens but will still accommodate. wide range of tools.
As for the rulings, I like the very light 4mm dot grid — it provided guidance without being distracting or overwhelming lighter ink colors. If 4mm is too small for you, the 5mm graph/grid is the next best option and if you need a little more writing room or really like Steno, then the Steno ruling is excellent.