Yamamoto Paper Writing Pads: Tomoegawa Tomoe River vs. Sanzen Tomoe River S

We’ve discussed the change in the Tomoe River paper here on the blog and many other bloggers have also done research on the subject. Hobonichi also posted an interview with the Sanzen CEO and Manufacturing Manager and even a post on how Sanzen makes Tomoe River S paper.

At the St. Louis Pen Show, pen friend Andrew purchased two Yamamoto A5 Writing Pads — one was the Sanzen Tomoe River S paper and one was the Tomoegawa Tomoe River Paper. Andrew, Alan T.  and I happily spent the evening alternating between the two papers, testing the ink shading, sheening and absorption. By the end of the evening, we could tell just be touching pen to paper which paper was which.

After this experiment in July, I kept thinking about the experience and realized I needed to share the results with a bigger audience so I purchased one of each of the Yamamoto A5 Writing Pads to be able to recreate the experiment for you as well as add in an old Elia Note A5 notebook which I know uses some of the original Tomoe River produced on the old No. 7 machine. The Tomoegawa Writing Pad contains the paper produced on the No. 9 machine as is the last paper produced in the Tomoegawa factory before the equipment and branding were sold to Sanzen. As is discussed in the interview mentioned above the CEO and manager at Sanzen help to explain how anything and everything can effect the quality of the paper both in production and afterwards. Heat, humidity, the pulp. and the water used in manufacturing can all effect the final result.

As such, I wanted to be able to both experience and try to explain the differences. My goal is not to make people covet or go in search of marked up “vintage” Tomoegawa Tomoe River paper. What I wanted to do is establish what the differences are and, in the end, establish that while the Sanzen Tomoe River S is different from the previous iterations, it is still, by far, some of the best fountain pen friendly paper available.

Above are MOST of the tools I used in testing. I wanted to test both fountain pens as well as felt, gel, liquid ink, as well as folded nibs and dip pens in order to see the full scope of paper capabilities. Since the new Sanzen Tomoe River paper is featured in the Hobonichi planners, its important that the paper handle a wide assortment of pens since so many people use the planners, not just fountain pen people.

Fountain Pen Tests:

In my first round of pen tests, I didn’t notice huge differences between the papers. All line weights and colors were pretty consistent. The Sanzen may have shown a bit more green in the Sailor Hinoki multi-chromatic ink but it could also be how I put the ink down so, despite efforts to be scientific some differences may be user error.

The only noticeable difference was some feathering in the dip pen test but dip pens are not used by most people. And the Sanzen paper seemed “drier”. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s most noticeable with the Pilot Parallel writing sample and how there are more rough edges comparatively.

In the longer writing sample, it became more evident that the vintage Tomoe River (Elia Note) creates a broader line with the HF Sailor nib when compared to the Sanzen Tomoe River. This solified my theory about the Sanzen paper being “drier”.

Heavy Ink Application:

When using a folded nib (and Robert Oster Torquay) the Sanzen paper created a slightly lighter color and finer line. The color is relatively consistent on all three papers.

Another folded nib sample on all three papers make the dry quality of the Sanzen more evident. The wobbliness of the edges may have to do with the slightly more tooth (texture) in the paper. The vintage Elia Note paper is the smoothest and the Tomoegawa paper is in-between.

The color fidelity is pretty consistent on all three papers. None had bleed through issues but the show through was pretty similar. The paper is only 52gsm so dumping this much ink is bound to cause a little showthrough.

Other Pens:

On the Elia Note paper, the smudges are the only indication that this paper takes a bit longer to dry than the other two.

With other pens tested, the only notable issue was the Uniball ONE 0.38. The ink looks — oily? The black ink color was more notable than the light green color but the color is quite light.

All three papers show a little granulation, particularly in the light pink Pentel Sign Pen. This is an odd effect but none of the brush pens feathered so its probably not a male-or-break for most people.

Pencil on all three papers was actually okay. It will smudge a little bit if you are left handed or are working in a hot, humid environment.

My final opinion:

As the Sanzen version of Tomoe River paper is the only option readily available, I think its a good option. Is it the same as the Tomoegawa paper made on the old No. 7 machine? No. But the Sanzen version is not BAD. It’s just different. It’s a little drier and a little toothier. Over time, Sanzen may adjust things or replace rollers or blankets (those felt sheets that soak up the water) and the overall texture of the paper may shift slightly, for better or worse. But, given all the other alternatives currently available (and not being discontinued, I’m looking at you, Cosmo Air Light), I think continuing to purchase and support the efforts of the Sanzen company are in the best interests of the stationery and (particularly) the fountain pen community.

Yamamoto Paper A5 Writing Pads can be purchased directly on their web site (¥1760 per pad) or through Etsy ($21 per pad).

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review were provided free of charge for the purpose of review. Some items were purchased with funds from our amazing Patrons. You can help support this blog by joining our Patreon. Please see the About page for more details.

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. OMG I’m so glad to hear you say this: “In the longer writing sample, it became more evident that the vintage Tomoe River (Elia Note) creates a broader line with the HF Sailor nib when compared to the Sanzen Tomoe River.” This was instantly my experience when I compared them, and there was actually an extended thread three weeks ago on Slack where some people said no, they’d seen the opposite. Thank you for confirming I’m not just hallucinating!

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